For about 10 minutes I thought it would be a good idea to go back and transcribe the notes I took while watching Tony Jaa’s Protector the last time around. Thanks to getting bored with it and my terrible handwriting I quit. Anyway, I did however think it would be a good idea to tell you about Ong Bak 2, the prequel to Jaa’s original Ong Bak. I guess it’s a prequel. To be honest the plot left me scratching my head a bit. I was working on some freelance while it was on, so it surprised me when I realized I was watching flashbacks and not cuts to other people.
So here’s the deal. This movie’s set in the past. Not exactly sure when because I’m not an expert on Thai history, but it seemed to be equal to a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon-like time period (sorry if that’s wildly incorrect, I just mean it’s not the modern world, people live in tribes and villages and elephants are all over the place). Jaa presumably plays his ancestor from the previous movie, but I don’t think it really matters as he starts off as a kid and grows up to be a weapons master of a thieves guild after his dad gets killed by marauders (they were royalty of some kind).
I generally don’t like these martial arts movies set in the past, but I had never seen one set in the past of Thailand. There’s enough differences (fewer kimonos and more dudes wearing close to nothing) in the cultures that there’s always something cool to see even if punches and knees aren’t being thrown. There are some really cool dance scenes that are worth the price of admission as far as I’m concerned.
But, let’s be honest, you want to watch this movie because of the fight scenes and they are spectacular. From a kid fighting an alligator in a mud pit to Jaa’s army of thieves attacking some dudes on boats to the final extra long series of fights that Jaa participates in that end the movie. Man, they were intense. Fans of the elephants from The Protector will be overjoyed to see their triumphant return in this movie, not only as comrades, but also as a platform for fighting. Don’t worry, though, no elephants were hurt on screen, though that didn’t stop me from cringing as attackers tried slashing at Jaa inches away from the pachyderm.
My one complaint about the movie spawns from my laziness. I prefer to watch foreign movies dubbed because I’m either doing something else or don’t want to be put to sleep by reading a movie. I know, I know, I suck. Anyway. the only problem with the movie (aside from maybe being a little long) is the dubbing. Pretty much the whole process could have been done better than the finished product. Most of the voices they used for dubbing don’t fit. They mostly sound like modern white guys. You couldn’t get a few more English-speaking Thai or Asian folks? Even worse are some of the translations for quick one-off lines that background characters say. I can’t think of one specific example, but those guys all sound like surfer dudes. A little more attention to era-specific translations would have been appreciated.
Let’s call this SPOILER territory. I was shocked at how the movie ended. After a series of crazy fights, Jaa falls and finds out that he didn’t really kill the guy who he thought killed his father. Instead he kills the guy who actually killed his father who says something like “I’m sorry I killed your father, son.” I have no idea what that meant. Anyway, the movie ends ends with Jaa falling to the ground after killing that dude and then this voiceover from the beginning pops on and does a little speech that sounds kind of like the Tinkerbell one from Peter Pan: if we want him to come back, he will. Again, weird. But, don’t worry, he’s okay enough because there’s a preview for Ong Bak 3 which seems to pick up right where this one leaves off. Can’t wait for that or whatever other Jaa movie might come out next, this dude’s the best.