Sunday, February 14, 2010

Bak Ground

If you read this blog much, or if you're just a good guesser, you know how much I love Tony Jaa. So you can probably guess how excited I was to see Ong Bak 2: The Beginning. Not only is it another Ong Bak, but Tony Jaa is directing.

Ong Bak was set in modern times, but Ong Bak 2 is set in the days of the wars between the Ayutthaya and Sukhothai, making it technically a prequel. It starts with a little boy tossed from a horse, while the man who tossed him takes a stand against the archers and swordsmen who had been chasing them. Frying pan to the fire, the boy is captured by slavers and forced to fight an alligator. When bandits attack the slavers, the bandit king likes the boy's pluck and rescues him.

So the boy goes off to live with the king of the bandits. He trains in a bunch of martial arts and grows up to be Tony Jaa. We learn why he was tossed from a horse and so forth, and he goes on to get his vengeance, etc. I don't want to post any spoilers - also, I got kind of confused - so I won't go into the details.

Here is what I will go into:
  • Tony Jaa gets to show off many fighting styles: Kung fu in the Crane, Tiger and Monkey styles, as well as Drunken style, samurai sword, and various weapons.
  • In fact, there is a longish Thai classical dance scene, including Tony Jaa doing an amazing turn as Garuda.
  • The scenes, settings and costumes are lush, gorgeous and yummy. Olden-times Thai is a sadly underused fashion concept (outside of The King and I).
  • Jaa seems to do just fine as director, but is maybe a little too in love with slo-mo. It trivializes the speed of some of the fighting. On the other hand, Jaa moves so fast that, without slo-mo, we would miss about half the action. So maybe it's a good choice.
Mainly, I'd say this movie is designed to give Jaa a chance to try out a bunch of fighting styles - plus classical dance. It totally succeeds. And Jaa seems to be able to handle the director's role as well. I might even like this better the the first Ong Bak. It certainly has a higher budget.

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