Synopsis: Set in Feudal Siam, Tien (played by Tony Jaa) is a young boy and the son of a great warrior and provincial ruler. When a rival faction led by the cruel and power-hungry Lord Rajasena rises up to take control, Tien is rescued from the men who have killed his family, only to be kidnapped by slave traders. The boy is spirited and refuses to submit to the cruel traders. As some kind of ultimate punishment, the slave traders throw Tien into a pit to fight a giant crocodile. Watching within the crowd is a mysterious man (with an awesome mustache) who sees the fire and determination in Tien’s eyes and offers him a dagger, telling him ‘your life is up to you.’ Tien kills the crocodile and is taken in by the mysterious man named Chernang who turns out to be the leader of the Pha Beek Khrut Bandits. After being given the choice to strike out on his own or train in the bandits’ martial practices, Tien chooses to fight and learn under his adoptive father. Tien excels and masters many martial arts forms and gains the respect of the rest of the bandits, all of them adept in fighting and trickery. However, before Tien can take his place as the next leader of the Pha Beek Khrut bandits he must avenge the death of his biological parents and punish Lord Rajasena. Will Tien succeed?
I am going to start out by saying I watched Ong Bak 2 kind of accidentally. I had watched the first Ong Bak in the theatre and liked the story of Ting, a young country bumpkin who is a total bad ass at Muy Thai and goes to the city to try to find the stolen head of his village’s sacred Buddha statue. The fight scenes were excellent, the story was good and the characters were fun. Onk Bak is set in present day Thailand so I was a little surprised to turn on Onk Bak 2 and see people on horseback, bows and arrows and hear that it was set in 1421.
Alright, so the sequel is a prequel.Got it. Not going to find out what happens to Ting.
After the initial ‘Whaaa?’ moment, I was enraptured by the story, the foreign setting, the gritty world, and the FIGHT SCENES. Holy smokes. Thailand and Cambodia, where the movie was filmed are beautiful. And unlike some action movies or even period pieces where everything is clean down to the mud the horses walk in, people get dirty. They aren’t always pretty. People spit and have scars and sell slaves. They lock the children in one cage and the mothers in the other and bring them to market. They get covered in mud. They let spit drip down their beards. Even our intrepid hero doesn’t always seem to have time to brush his hair. He is way too busy kicking ass.
The fight scenes went above and beyond the first Ong Bak. Tony Jaa showed off Muy Thai in his first movie and this time he serves up a veritable buffet of styles, both empty hand and with weapons. Animal style Kung Fu, silat, Muy Thai, kundang and Drunken Master are just some of the forms displayed in a way that makes sense in the story. When you throw weapons in there the awesomeness goes up exponentially. There is a great scene with one of my favorite weapons, the three-sectioned staff and katars, kamas, katanas, spears and lowly wine bottles all have their time to shine and slice. There is also a crazy fight between Tien and a crow assassin that is amazing. Spoiler: it takes place ON AN ELEPHANT.
If you are into martial arts films and like having a plot beyond “You killed my master!’ then Ong Bak 2 might make your day. It is a revenge story with an actual plot and twists, as well as more than a few kicks to the face. There is a love interest in the story but it’s not a huge deal. As I said before, so many styles are showcased. If you’re looking for some ideas for a martial character, this will offer some GREAT inspiration regarding weapon choice and style. And if you like a grittier movie where most of the wow factor is due to physical ability and not magic, break out the popcorn. Those not interested in a traditional European setting will obviously be pleased and the costumes/gear of the population might have you rethinking what to garb your next campaign in. In addition the backdrop of a group of bandits operating as two factions vie for power makes for a great setting. I would have to say that one of the lines from the movies gives a lot of food for thought, both for life and in game: Can great warriors bring peace to their homelands? With a backdrop of Buddhism, karma/the consequences of one’s actions in our lives and the lives of others is one that GMs and players could all take to heart.
Don’t watch this movie if you need gallons of magic, like your heroes good and clean or need a love interest to hold your attention. And if cliffhangers make you wish for a kick to the nethers, skip it (though there is a sequel). It’s available both subbed and dubbed but I’m a stickler for subs. It won’t detract from the action since no one gives grand speeches while they are kicking someone off of the roof of the main building of the compound. And if you haven’t seen the first Ong Bak, fret not. At this juncture, they are seemingly unrelated except for the title, recurring actors and crazy awesomeness of the fight scenes. As far as letting kids watch it, I would maybe give it a watch first and judge for yourself. There are some CGI blood sprays and appropriate bleeding, as well as images of parents being shot with arrows. Also, it will encourage your child to jump around doing ‘kung fu’ for hours after the movie.
Thoroughly enjoyable. Entirely rewatchable. I haven’t come up with a rating system yet but as far as my list of martial arts movies goes, this definitely makes it on the list of favorites. Find it and watch it. I promise to watch the third one and let you know the deal.