Tuesday, February 28, 2012

"Ong Bak 2: The Beginning" (2008)

Starring Tony Jaa
Directed by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai

"Ong Bak 2" is a huge departure from the first 2003 film. While the first was set in the modern day and had martial artist Tony Jaa chasing after a stolen statue head, the new film is set in the 15th century and has Jaa... doing a bunch of... stuff...

Alright, so this film pretty much eschews anything resembling a plot. It's sort of there, and by the end of the film it makes sense, but for a movie that's an hour and fifty minutes long, the plot probably takes up about five or six minutes. The rest of the film is a series of confrontations in which Jaa takes on increasing numbers of dangerous enemies.

For what it is, it's mightily impressive. Jaa is an amazing martial artist, and the editors often have to slow down the action so that we can see what he's doing. The fights are lengthy, which can sometimes mean that watching the film drags, but the technical proficiency is simply too good to ignore. You'll be impressed over and over again with what Jaa is capable of doing, even if it all comes at the expense of any kind of story or character.

The fights are really the star of the show here, more so than in the first film. But that's probably what makes "Ong Bak 2" the lesser film, since the first had a decent story and characterization to go along with its impressive set pieces.

The presentation on the blu-ray disc is disappointing to say the least. Visually, this is a movie with lots of fast motion and textures. Taking place mostly in the mountains and jungles, there's lots of tiny details every where, from the rocks and trees to costumes, dirty skin, weapons and more. Unfortunately, the transfer can't keep up with all this. Most of the movie looks soft. Scenes taking place in the dark or in the rain are subject to color banding and lots of smearing. Much of the movie has a sickly yellow cast over it, making skin tones look jaundiced and strange. It certainly looks better than it's DVD counterpart likely does, but still not what it could or should look like in high definition.

The audio track fares better. I'm not one for watching dubs, so even though the disc defaults to English 5.1, the original Thai track is available and it works out well. I don't think it will win any awards, since it's essentially a collection of hefty whacks and thwacks and a serviceable but forgettable action score.