Thursday, May 5, 2011

"Ong Bak 3" (2010)

Starring Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong and Primrata Det-Udom
Written and directed by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai
Rated R - Violence
Running Time: 95 minutes

Ong Bak 3 Collector's Edition + Digital Copy [Blu-ray]I was a huge, huge fan of the original "Ong Bak" starring Tony Jaa.  While the storyline was simplistic, the characters were likeable and the fight sequences and stunt work were absolutely incredible.  Unfortunately, I felt like the second film dropped the ball in almost every way.  It had nothing to do with the first, aside from the title, and just didn't wow me the same way the original did.

"Ong Bak 3," sadly, continues on from the second film - picking up where it left off as Tien (Tony Jaa) is held captive and beaten mercilessly by Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang).  Elsewhere, some kind of man-creature named Bhuti (Dan Chupong) who is some kind of assassin kills a bunch of Rajasena's men.  Tien is put to death but later his body is returned to his people and he's somehow magically revived.  Unfortunately, his body is still broken from his injuries and he is crippled and in constant pain.  Under the tutelage of a Buddhist master, Tien learns to rehabilitate his body and bring peace to his soul so he can defeat Bhuti, who plans to take over the kingdom... or something.

Honestly, "Ong Bak 3" is a pretty huge misfire.  The fights, when they happen, are pretty incredible.  Tony Jaa is still an amazing martial artist, but the story of "Ong Bak 3" is a total mess.  Everything that happens feels pointless, and worse, overly pretentious.  Considering that Buddhist philosophy is typically peaceful and humble, it's odd that a film so steeped in it seems so over-inflated with self-importance. 

The fights, awesome as they are, are sadly few and far between.  Long stretches of the film are just outright boring, with far too many training montages narrated by Tien's master giving speeches about inner peace and honor.  There's also a romantic subplot for Tien that is absolutely not developed in the slightest, yet her fate is totally at the heart of Tien's motivations for the climax. 

For all its problems, "Ong Bak 3" does have some great fights.  But unlike some other martial arts movies where the fights can carry a weaker story, "Ong Bak 3" simply can't manage.  It collapses under the weight of its supposed storyline.  The original "Ong Bak" is incredible... I only wish the sequels lived up to the promise it held for future installments.