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SXSW Review: Ong Bak 2

Bold Claim of the Day: Ong Bak 2 is the greatest martial arts movie ever made. Not the smartest, or the funniest, or the most dramatic… the greatest.
By  · Published on March 14th, 2009

Can there be such a thing as too many fight scenes in a movie? The answer is an unqualified ‘No’… and for proof you need look no further than Tony Jaa’s Ong Bak 2. It’s no exaggeration to say this movie is 80% action, 10% exposition, and 10% that very same exposition all over again. And that’s pretty damn impressive for a 111-minute movie. It is the single most exhilarating, jaw-dropping, and ball-tingling action movie ever made. Period.

Plot points are kept simple, unobtrusive, and barely worth mentioning. So I’ll barely mention them. Tien’s family is murdered by rival warlords, and the young boy ends up in a camp of thieves to be trained in martial arts, elephant wrangling, throat juggling, and more. He grows into an angry and vengeful Tony Jaa who’s happy to lead the thieves for a short while before deciding to head out for revenge on the warlord who made him an orphan. Bam. That’s it. Now add ninety minutes of violent, bloody bliss and you have Ong Bak 2.

A brief summation of the action scenes… horse chases, death by arrows, crocodile wrestling, swordplay, knife fights, hand to hand combat, eyes raked, explosions, assaults from the trees, attacks from under water, throats slit, submission moves, kung fu mistresses spliced with tigers and crows, elephant domination, back flips, two-story falls, dance scenes with jalapeno pepper head-dresses, face masks, blood, flesh slapping, nods to The Octagon and Peter Pan, and half an hour of non-stop Jaa-style scrapping that features more hits, kicks, slices, stabs, slams, jabs, and “holy shit!” moves than any ten other movies combined.

After the nearly thirty-minute finale of spectacularly vicious and fierce action, Jaa ends the film with a ballsy move. ** Skip the rest of this paragraph to avoid a minor spoiler. ** A Tinker Bell-inspired coda appears on screen imploring the viewer to direct their energy in Tien’s direction if he’s to survive an imminent torture session, and then… end credits. A bullshit move, but goddamn you’ve got no right to complain after the film you’ve just witnessed. And yes, Ong Bak 3 is currently in production.

For the nit-pickers out there, the movie does have a few negatives. It could stand a little bit of editing… one whole segment is repeated for no discernible reason other than to give the viewer a chance to catch their breath. (You’ll appreciate it.) Effects-wise there are a couple obvious splashes of CGI blood, and one fight atop on elephant uses too much wire-work. But don’t complain too hard. It is after all a fight on top of a goddamn elephant. Plus, Tien’s battling some kind of woman/crow/ass-kicker hybrid, so you may not even notice the wires anyway. Again though, these are issues for nit-pickers and cock holsters. A few bland or repetitive scenes are a worthy price to pay for the bone-crunching nirvana that fills the remainder of the running time.

Jaa co-directed Ong Bak 2, and it’s one hell of a debut. He probably focused on the action scenes, the fighting, the dancing, the animal stunts, the caravan assaults, the training scenes, and the half-hour non-stop brawl between him and every able-bodied citizen of Thailand. The remainder of the film, about twenty minutes or so, was left to his co-director, Panna Rittikrai, who also directed Jaa in The Bodyguard and Born to Fight. So at the end of the night, how do you sum up Ong Bak 2 with an inappropriate and nonsensical metaphor? Picture the hottest Asian woman you’ve ever seen. One hand is feeding you the most delicious Thai food you’ve ever tasted, and the other is stroking your abstinence ring. Then picture her beating the shit out of you for almost two hours straight. It makes little sense, but you wouldn’t be able to say no to it. That’s the brutal beauty of Ong Bak 2. The greatest martial arts movie ever made. Not the smartest, or the funniest, or the most dramatic… the greatest. Anyone who tells you different is wrong.

On that note… Cole Abiaus fell asleep during Ong Bak 2. He woke up with drool on his chin and slightly tighter jeans before proceeding to criticize the movie he barely watched. “The traditional Thai dance was boring! The elephant beat down was weird! The slow-mo scenes were far from Snyderific!” Cole Abiaus everyone… racist, animal-hating slomosexual slomophobe.

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Rob Hunter has been writing for Film School Rejects since before you were born, which is weird seeing as he's so damn young. He's our Chief Film Critic and Associate Editor and lists 'Broadcast News' as his favorite film of all time. Feel free to say hi if you see him on Twitter @FakeRobHunter.