Ong Bak 2: The Beginning (2008)

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Released 3-Nov-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Martial Arts Main Menu Audio & Animation
Featurette-Behind The Scenes
Interviews-Cast & Crew
Trailer
Rating Rated MA
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 93:41
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (36:27) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Tony Jaa
Panna Rittikrai
Studio
Distributor

Madman Entertainment
Starring Tony Jaa
Sorapong Chatree
Sarunyu Wongkrachang
Nirut Sirichanya
Dan Chupong
Santisuk Promsiri
Primorata Dejudom
Case Amaray Variant
RPI $29.95 Music None Given


Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format ?
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    After the international success of the original Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong/The Protector (despite an awful release strategy and marketing from The Weinstein Company), Tony Jaa had a huge weight of expectation over him for his next film. After rumours of a falling out with Prachya Pinkaew, director of those two previous hits, Jaa announced that he would be writing, directing and starring in Ong Bak 2, a spiritual prequel to his breakthrough set in the 15th-century. A legion of fans waited with bated breath, and waited, and waited.

    Enough time passed that nervous international distributor and co-financier The Weinstein Company pulled out of the production. Later again, months overdue and substantially over budget, rumours started to circulate. Jaa had gone MIA with the film's overlong shoot far from over. Weeks later the announcement came that Jaa was back on set and Panna Rittikrai, Jaa's mentor in action choreography, would be stepping up to "help" complete the film. Some months later again and Ong Bak 2 was finally in theatres, although the finished product apparently only covers about half the story originally intended. Why is this background relevant in a review of the film, when a review generally should only be concerned with the finished product? Because Ong Bak 2 is so bad that anyone watching it will wonder how on Earth this monstrosity happened.

    As for the plot itself, the first thing to get clear is that Ong Bak 2 really has nothing whatsoever to do with the first film beyond starring Tony Jaa as a guy with a similar name. The film's plot is a little bit like Braveheart re-done in 15th century Thailand, featuring Tony Jaa as a one-man army rather than a bunch of Scots, then chopped into little bits that wind up on screen in jumpy back-and-forth fashion that bounce between the main character's childhood and his adult life. Jaa stars as Tien, whose parents were killed while he was a boy at dancing school. Tien is captured by slavers, only to be freed and raised by the leader of a group of bandits with a silly curly moustache. Tien grows up, becomes the leader of the bandits then kills a bunch of baddies who probably had something to do with killing his parents. I say probably because there really isn't any story exposition or much dialogue in the movie. The whole thing is basically moody action scene, followed by montage with some nonsensical voice-over about the honour of weapons, followed by moody action scene, repeat ad nauseum. Some of those montages are evidently flashbacks to Tien's childhood, but none of them really explain anything. A girl is introduced in the flashbacks, who reappears briefly as an adult, but her relevance is not really explained at all. Then again nothing is.

    The action scenes are a mixed bag. There is some great stuff there, much of which looks bone-crunching and dangerous, but much of it is awkwardly shot. The scenes are cleanly shot, but there seems to be an obsession with making everything look edgy and cool by using weird angles and slow motion - lots of ridiculous slow motion. The big problem here being that everything would look cool anyway and the weird angles, particularly the cuts from one weird angle to another, make it hard to see what is going on. Furthermore, the lack of context for each action sequence makes them dull, we're never given a reason to care about what is going on so there is no real excitement in Tien surviving, and far too many of the fights are ridiculously one-sided. One-man-army Jaa bashes his way through hundreds of guys one or two at a time using a sequence of weapons and things. Meh.

    Hopefully would-be international film financiers learn a lesson from this debacle. There are plenty to be found here. Tony Jaa is undoubtedly a great martial artist and an affable action star, but he is no filmmaker. Prachya Pinkaew, on the other hand, does not seem so dependant on his stars, having continued his string of success on the brilliant Chocolate. Pinkaew is one of a vast number of producers listed for Ong Bak 2, though his involvement is purported to have been minimal.

    Do yourself a favour and just buy another copy of the magnificent original Ong Bak.

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Transfer Quality

Video

    The film is presented in its original 2.35:1 aspect ratio and is 16x9 enhanced.

    The look of the film is erratic, many of the different bits of the film look like the could have been taken from entirely different movies, though on the whole the video looks decent. Some of the scenes are a little grainy, particularly darker scenes, however the image is fairly clear for the most part. There is a food level of shadow detail, particularly in the night time sequences. Mild mosquito noise is visible in many of the more picturesque landscape shots.

    The colours are surprisingly consistent given the erratic change in look throughout the film, with a heavily filtered brown-tinge to the colour. This palette contributes substantially to the desperate-to-look-cool tone of the film and would probably fit the film well if not for the awful use of silly camera angles, the absurdity of which seems to be amplified by the colour scheme.

    I noticed two small specs of dust on the film throughout the course of movie.

    The voice over and what little dialogue there is in the film is translated to English with bold yellow subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Sharpness
Shadow Detail
Colour
Grain/Pixelization
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts
Overall

Audio

    The film features a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kbps) and a Thai Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kbps) audio track, which are unfortunately just as bad as the rest of the film. The audio is clean and free form any hiss crackle or pop, but is horribly mixed.

    The dialogue is clearly audible and appears to be reasonably synchronised to the video, aside from some occasionally obvious ADR.

    The score is schizophrenic, varying wildly from traditional Thai percussion overlaid with a cheesy orchestral synth to even sillier rock-metal, and virtually always a terrible fit for whatever is happening in the film. The score is often the most obvious fault with the mixing of the film and is awkwardly ducked or panned to make way for some actiony noises before being shifted back.

    The surrounds are clumsily used throughout the film. The environmental effects are reasonable, but big awkward pans ruin the mood of a number of scenes. The subwoofer gets some good rumbling, though nothing subtle.

Audio Ratings Summary
Dialogue
Audio Sync
Clicks/Pops/Dropouts
Surround Channel Use
Subwoofer
Overall

Extras

Behind The Scenes Footage (25:10)

    A mountain of out-of-context on-set footage haphazardly chopped together. There a few interesting bits here, particularly the no-wires action stunts, but it really not worthwhile wading through the whole lot. There is a lot of chaff that really should have been husked in the editing process.

Interviews

    Two awkward sales-pitch/press-kit interviews; a nine minute interview with Tony Jaa and a five minute interview with Prachya Pinkaew. Jaa offers a cautiously excited sales pitch for the movie and discusses the combination of martial arts he used in the film. Prachya Pinkaew' interview is hilarious. With all the honesty of a late-night telemarketer, he offers his utmost assurance that this is the best movie Jaa has ever featured in, repeatedly. Along the lines of "don't believe the rumours, it is an awesome movie!" and "nothing to complain about here, this movie is awesome!", over and over.

Trailer(2:02)

    A rather exciting trailer cut together with non-stop action, including a couple of shots not in the film. To be honest, the trailer is a better watch than the film.

Other Trailers

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    Numerous editions have been released in Region 3, but none in English-speaking territories at this stage (Region 1 or Region 2).

Summary

    A genuine disappointment. Ong Bak 2 is a mess from start to finish. The action is so-so, the story is non existent.

    The video is decent. The audio is clean but clumsily mixed. The extras are largely a waste of time.

Ratings (out of 5)

Video
Audio
Extras
Plot
Overall

© Adam Gould (Totally Biolicious!)
Monday, January 25, 2010
Review Equipment
DVDSony Playstation 3, using HDMI output
DisplayOptoma HD20 Projector. Calibrated with THX Optimizer. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderPioneer VSX2016AVS. Calibrated with Video Essentials/Digital Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX2016AVS
Speakers150W DTX front speakers, 100W centre and 4 surround/rear speakers, 12 inch PSB Image 6i powered sub

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