Ong Bak 2 moves back to 15th-century Thailand to tell the story of a young prince whose family is brutally murdered by rivals.
The boy escapes and falls under the protection of a gang of outlaw assassins skilled in combat and killing. Under their tutelage, he grows into adulthood, becoming a master of all fighting forms, arguably the best. The years also ferment haunting questions about his family’s death, and he leaves his new home to confront those responsible — a journey that reveals ties closer than expected.
The story is a predictable, historical revenge fantasy/coming-of-age drama, and that’s fine since it exists only as a frame for Jaa’s incredible fight sequences. All manners of styles — Thai Muay Boran, Japanese Kenjutsu, Indonesian Harimau Silat, Chinese Zui Quan, Wing Chun and Hung Ga kung fu and more — erupt in a nonstop maelstrom from beginning to end.
The set-ups are equally impressive, particularly Jaa’s dispatch of a gang while flailing about on a live elephant (a incredible bit elaborated from his 2005 film The Protector). Jaa has raised the bar on martialarts cinema significant degrees, and considering Ong Bak 2’s cliffhanger ending, one can only imagine what spectacles a third film will bring. Grade: B
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