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SXSW: Ong Bak 2 Reviewed

On Friday night here in Austin, Ong Bak 2 was the first movie to debut as part of Fantastic Fest's new partnership with the South By Southwest Film Festival, in which they show edgy movies after midnight to an audience hungry for freaky film goodness. Fantastic Fest's presentation, which included a naked hairy man blowing on a ram's horn and a pre-movie beer chugging contest was a complete success. The movie which followed their fully awesome hijinks, not so much.

If Ong Bak 2 has anything to do with Ong Bak, I couldn’t find it. It’s not so much a sequel as a blatant attempt to cash in on the cult popularity of Tony Jaa’s first underground breakout martial arts movie. Ong Bak took place in modern times and told the story of a villager trying to recover a sacred idol. Ong Bak 2 takes place in some fantastical, medieval Thailand where warlords roam the jungle and a boy named Tien is raised by rebel fighters to bring peace to the land… by killing everyone.

Ok Ong Bak 2 isn’t really an Ong Bak movie, just some other movie with the name “Ong Bak” slapped on it. No one would care as long as it delivered more of the crazy, violent, kick ass martial arts action Tony Jaa is famous for. Unfortunately that doesn’t happen until the movie’s last 15 minutes when Jaa singlehandedly defeats an entire army using a variety of crazy, over-the-top martial arts stunts. It’s a solid, lengthy fight scene which should please martial arts fans. Particularly eye-popping is a sequence in which Jaa uses an elephant to vault himself into the air where he attacks hapless, stand there and wait to be smacked villains with an array of punches and kicks. To get to that 15 minutes though, you’ll be forced to sit through an unbearable 75 minutes of horrible flashbacks and nonsensical, slow motion scenes, a badly filmed fight with a crocodile, and even bizarre interpretive dance.

To say that this movie makes no sense is an understatement. Ong Bak at least had some sort of plot. Not much of one, but enough to contain all of the fighting. Ong Bak 2 commits the nearly unforgivable sin of sacrificing fighting in favor of convoluted character development. It’s wasted effort since no one watching has the faintest fuck of an idea what’s going on anyway. You have to wonder why they even bothered with the subtitles. It’s not like they make much difference.