Despite some confusion over the title (the film may be called Ong-Bak: The Beginning or Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning, depending on which DVD/blu-ray version you buy), Tony Jaa’s follow-up film is supposed to be a prequel to the 2003 film Ong-Bak.
What’s more confusing, though, is Ong-Bak 2 bares no resemblance to the original film apart from literally the final few seconds, and it would seem the producers are obviously trying to cash in on the success of the first Ong-Bak in name only.
As well as being set six-hundred years previous to the events of Ong-Bak, the main character is called Tien and is much more violent and unmoral towards his enemies than Jaa’s Ting was in the original.
That results in a number of brutally-stage fight scenes, of course, which showcase Jaa’s exceptional ability in Kung Fu and Samurai swordplay styles, as well as his usual Muay Thai, but the main problem is his new character, Tien, is undeveloped and not particularly likeable.
I didn’t really have a problem with the simple revenge story — which sees renowned warrior Chernang (Sorapong Chatree) taking Tien under his wing to combat Lord Rajasena (Sarunyoo Wongkrachang) and his gang of slave traders — or even the bad acting. It’s just the way the film presented itself as some kind of epic of great importance that I found off-putting most of all.
Aside from obviously the brilliantly-choreographed action scenes (check out this fight scene, especially, which sees Tony Jaa fighting his enemies on a frickin’ elephant!), another plus point is Ong Bak 2 is really very nice to look at (thank Nattawut Kittikhun for the cinematography). Both these factors considered will at least keep Jaa fans happy and make this “prequel” watchable from start to finish.