After viewing Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior, there were likely few who thought to themselves “Wow, I need more!” Not that the action in the film was bad; no all that first film was was action. It was very, very light on plot and the only saving grace it had was Tony Jaa performing some of the most jaw-dropping stunts ever caught on film. For those hoping for more of the same, however, you’ll be only slightly disappointed. Yes, Ong Bak 2: The Beginning is packed to the gills with action…but there’s actually more emphasis on a story this time around too. So that’s either a good or bad thing, depending on how much you enjoyed the first one.
Martial arts superstar Tony Jaa stars in and directs this epic tale of revenge set hundreds of years in the past. Featuring a huge cast and hordes of elephants, this prequel takes Jaa’s skills to the next level, showcasing him as a master of a wide range of martial arts styles – while proving him to be a promising director as well.
Since the first film apparently Jaa has gotten more clout—even for the studio to allow him to not only star in but direct this one. The difference is marginal as there is still a heavy focus on the action, but this time it’s all set in the past, 1421 A.D. for those not following the 1974 date the Buddhist calendar gives this movie. So there’s definitely a heavy dosage of ancient weaponry hijinks, with plenty of swords tossed into the mix in addition to the usual kick assery that Jaa unleashes with both fists and feet. Sadly even though there’s more of a story to go around this time with Jaa playing a warrior raised from birth to exact revenge on…ok, nevermind that’s kind of the same thing as the last film. Despite the setbacks of this film in the story department, however, the increased production values are what set this apart from the first entry in the series.
It’s clear the budget is higher on this film. Not only because of the Blu-ray transfer that’s about ninety times clearer and stronger than the first films release, but because the camera work and stunts themselves just feel a lot more grounded. There’s less of a “oh this was just the best take they could get in during the short shoot on this particular day” feeling to some of the shots; there’s still a cheese factor to calculate into the film too of course, but that has little to do with the unrepentant and relentless action and cavalcade of violence that Jaa doles out to everyone and anyone.
As much as I enjoy the action though (especially with the upped production values—feels less like I’m watching some basement-budget homemade outing this time), the film still ultimately feels a bit hollow. I really don’t know what I’d put into the film that’s not already there, however; it’s a film made for one reason and one reason only and in that regard it’s pulled off flawlessly. I just would like a little bit more substance to go with the mindless violence…but I guess I can’t be too picky. Until I start kicking and punching things, thinking I can flip myself around like Jaa can and end up with a broken set of bones that is.
Overall if you enjoyed the first one there’s really no reason you won’t enjoy this one too. The ancient times setting keeps it from feeling like a complete re-hash, so if you’re in the market for a new kung-fu flick with appropriate amounts of cheese and violence then you really can’t go too wrong with this one. Recommended.
Magnolia Home Entertainment releases Ong Bak 2: The Beginning this time around (Fox handled the first films domestic release) and the presentation is miles better than what Fox gave us…although that’s not really Fox’s fault, so much as the original masters source. The set arrives in a standard Elite Blu-ray case and a menu system that is simple and easy to navigate.
Video arrives with a VC-1 encoded transfer that looks nice and minty. It’s got a very pristine looking transfer, oozing detail and a solid color palette. At times there’s a blown out contrast look to the picture and at others there’s a serene amount of earthly browns and greens to fill out the picture. It’s not a very diverse array of colors, admittedly, but it works for this film and it really does look fantastic. Especially fantastic to look at is whenever something big, like an elephant, is on the screen and you can see all of the tiny little details. It’s a really solid transfer and while not perfect, it will definitely be a welcome eye relief for anyone who watched the first film on Blu-ray first (as I did) and were put off by that transfer.
Audio is a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix and like the video transfer it just blows away the previous films mix. Fists and feet fly throughout the sound channels and every punch packs some kind of LFE bump to keep you aware of the action on screen. It’s also very clean and clear during the quieter moments of the film (what few there are, anyway) and overall it’s not something that you’ll want to miss. Between Jaa’s performances and the A/V transfer, this is definitely a film worth checking out on Blu-ray.
There are quite a few extras here, including:
Alternate Cut (1:28:27, 1080p)
Making Of (21:07, SD)
Behind the Scenes (17:50, SD)
Interviews with Cast and Crew (25:21, SD)
HDNet: A Look at Ong Bak 2 (2:53, 1080i)
There’s also a few other trailers as well (including one for Ong Bak 3), but the extent of the extras are listed above. There are some decent behind the scenes look at its production, although I’m not sure why they bothered to include the alternate cut as it actually just removes ten minutes of footage from the film…kind of an odd choice. In any case this is a Recommended release for martial arts fans, although others will probably find it worth a Rental only.
Ong Bak 2: The Beginning is now available on Blu-ray and DVD.