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Ong Bak 3 Film Review
Posted on Thu, Jan 13, 2011 at 11:48 am
by The IDMA Team

The law of diminishing returns has plagued many a film franchise. Most fans of Richard Donner's Superman and Steven Spielberg's Jaws will shudder at the mention of the sequels to these beloved movies.

Looking to buck the trend of bad sequels is Tony Jaa, who turned the heads of many action film aficionados with his 2003 hit, Ong Bak. The 2008 in-name-only sequel, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning featured some excellent fight choreography that paid tribute to various styles of martial arts, making the movie an instant favourite amongst action fans even though it did not quite meet the lofty standards that the original film set.

With two solid action films in the franchise, the question remaining is whether or not Ong Bak 3—set for U.S. theatrical release on January 14, 2011—would be a worthy final installment.

Ong Bak 3 directed by Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai image courtesy and (c) Sahamongkolfilm Co.

The Story

Things start off well enough as the movie picks up from the cliffhanger ending of Ong Bak 2 which saw Tien (Jaa) fall into the clutches of the Rajasena Lord (Saranyu Wongkrajang). In one of Ong Bak 3's more memorable scenes, Tien, wrapped in chains, attempts to fight off the warlord's minions but ultimately succumbs to their numbers.

Tien endures many more beatings and much excruciating torture before the Rajasena Lord orders his execution. The ingenuity of Tien's allies, though, prove too much for the warlord's men as they outwit them and rescue Tien, bringing him to the village of Kana Khone.

Crippled and bearing only the faintest spark of life, Tien returns from the brink of death thanks to the ministrations of Pim (Primorata Dejudom), a friend from his childhood, and Master Bua (Nirut Sirichanya), his adoptive father who has become a Buddhist monk. Tien does not take advantage of his second chance at life, though; instead, he falls into despair, unable to see past the pain in his broken body.

Meanwhile, the Rajasena Lord experiences strange, nightmarish visions. The Crow Demon (Dan Chupong), who helped defeat Tien at the end of Ong Bak 2, claims only he can lift the curse that is causing the visions. Deciding that the Crow Demon is the source of his troubles, the warlord leads a small army to kill the mysterious fighter.

Even as his enemies fight each other, Tien must battle his own demons and dispel the bad karma that now pervades his being. Reluctantly, the revived hero embarks on a journey that will transform him in unexpected ways.

Introspection Comes to the Fore

Ong Bak 3 is not short on ambition: rather than give fans the wall-to-wall action that they had become accustomed to from Jaa's previous films, this second Ong Bak sequel dives fearlessly into the abstract, tackling ideas such as spirituality and inner peace. The film, in fact, devotes a healthy portion of its running time to Tien's healing of his mind and purging himself of the vengeance and hate that motivated him in the second movie.

This is no small feat since Tien is consumed by self loathing and pity as a result of the torture he endured. Fortunately, Master Bua is on hand to offer pearls of wisdom from Buddhist philosophy and steer the former prince of thieves towards enlightenment.

Along with Master Bua's wisdom, Tien learns from his platonic love interest, Pim, the traditional dance known as Khon as part of his healing process. So instead of the gruelling training sequences that old school kung fu fans are used to seeing, Ong Bak 3 audiences get long looks at Tien meditating and learning the rhythms and fluidity of Khon dancing. This undoubtedly will come as great news for Tony Jaa fans who thought his other films contained too much sparring and needed more montages a la Fame.

Uninspired Combat

The set pieces that the film does possess, unfortunately for martial arts aficionados, do not come close to the creativity and energy of the fight sequences in previous Jaa films like Tom yum goong and the original Ong Bak. Dan Chupong acquits himself quite well in his action scenes, showing great timing and agility, but even he is unable to give a boost to the much-anticipated climactic battle that comes off as limp and unoriginal when compared to Jaa's other work.

Old school fans should note that the fighting in Ong Bak 3 employs more slow motion, stylish editing, and CGI than other Tony Jaa movies. The filmmakers went in this direction presumably because of the fantastic and supernatural elements in the story, such as the Crow Demon's magic power that manifests as wisps and swirls of black smoke. Folks expecting old-fashioned, effects-free fight scenes would be well advised to think carefully before committing 100 minutes of their lives to this effects-laden film.

The New Kid on the Block

With speculation running rampant about Tony Jaa retiring from filmmaking after Ong Bak 3, one cannot help but wonder if this major talent will be content to leave the entertainment world on such a disappointing note. If Jaa did make this film to complete his contractual obligations and not because he wanted to, then the half-hearted fight scenes would certainly be understandable, if not any more palatable.

This film, though, does show off Dan Chupong's considerable abilities. With Jaa capturing the international spotlight as Thailand's top action star, Chupong has had to take a backseat to his countryman despite starring in impressive actioners such as Born To Fight and Dynamite Warrior. With luck, Chupong will gain some overdue recognition from his work in Ong Bak 3, especially if we have indeed seen the last of the man who started this once-great series of films.

First Ong-Bak Movie - The Thai Warrior

Second Ong-Bak Movie - The Beginning

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