Posts Tagged ‘ong bak’



THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Panna Rittikrai, Morakot Kaewthanee  Produced by: Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai Cast: Kietisak Udomnak, Pimchanok Leuwisetpaibul, Sorapong Chatree, Supaksorn Chaimongkol, Kazu Patrick Tang, Sorapang Chatree

ROUND 1: I am aware that nobody cares about the plot of BKO: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT (those who would are most certainly not interested in the movie in the first place), so I will not spend too much time complaining about it.

A group of stuntmen is participating in a casting tournament for a Hollywood movie. They win, but are captured and instead of going to the States they have to compete against unknown enemies in a rundown real estate compound, while some rich people are betting on them, making – or losing – a fortune.

Of course the plot is stolen (only the plot holes are genuine), but to be fair the story also provides one of the more solid frameworks we’ve seen in movies like this. Just don’t ask questions, don’t expect logic.

ROUND 2: the film mostly features stuntmen from the teams who did some of the Thai action flicks we all know, so it makes sense that the story is drafted around a stunt team. It is clearly one of the smarter moves not to try to turn them into something they are not – as a result, BANGKOK KNOCKOUT feels relatively authentic and honest, and would have come close to the stunt film format I have proposed many times if, well if, they just had eliminated any kind of story for good. Never mind.

ROUND 3: You should think that six years after BORN TO FIGHT it’s about time to change the recipe, but innovation is absent around BANGKOK KNOCKOUT. I cannot see the motivation to do something new or anything that seriously outguns all the earlier Jaa / Rittikrai / Pinkaew movies (despite the director’s claims). By and large BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is more of the same, a pretty solid action fest following the well-known success formula. BKO is fun, fast and features some outstanding stunts and notable set pieces, but it must also be mentioned that the movie bears no surprises.

ROUND 4: Talking about the action I am a bit disappointed. It’s not that it lacks the wow factor, but I didn’t really feel excited about the choreography, nor did I feel the impact, no matter how tough the fights really were (or seemed). Maybe that also had to do with the fact that certain tricks are being used too frequently or have become too obvious, like wires, speeding up of images or armor worn under the clothes. I am not sure what was the intention behind the scene when one of the enemies takes off his shirt and reveals the exact same steel armor that makes many of these raw stunts possible (if you ever wondered how come they can kick and jump into each others stomachs like that, now you know), but it is also no secret that Mr. Rittikrai once again uses “dust” and water excessively to make the blows look better (Hong Kong did that already decades ago, by the way). So maybe there was no intention whatsoever.

ROUND 5: Saying BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is a good movie is like believing in Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny or Barack Obama bringing about change. Technically speaking, the film is a disaster. Many things are executed so badly, you almost feel like watching a Making Of. Abandoned housing projects are being prepped as restaurants, the lighting is so bad that you can see when it comes from a spotlight, weapons are obviously fake (like the big axe that looks like a 20 g toy), editing and directing are not even close to editing and directing, and let’s better not discuss the dialogue or acting (but hey, thanks for the bearable farang villain). The mentality is a bit like “that’s good enough for the audience”: BANGKOK KNOCKOUT misses attention to detail, perfection, even professionalism, but if that insults you, or is just another “who cares” on the very long who-cares-list, is something everyone has to judge for her- or himself.

ROUND 6: with BANGKOK KNOCKOUT, the target audience gets exactly what they want, a no-holds-barred fight movie featuring an array of breakneck, sometimes awesome stunts. If you are into this kind of entertainment you cannot not like this one – BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is must-see action for any die-hard fan. As nobody has promised us a great movie, or any surprises, it’s not surprising however that BANGKOK KNOCKOUT is not a great movie, and not surprising.

Despite BANGKOK KNOCKOUT kicking ass like crazy, it is also a copy-and-paste job, a hardboiled mashup of what’s been done before. It features enough borderline insane action to entertain from beginning to end, but in the future someone will have to rethink action made in Thailand as it all starts to feel like a TV show in its 50th season.







ONG BAK 3 [องค์บาก 3]


THAILAND 2010  Directed by: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai Written by: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai  Produced by: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai, Somsak Techaratanaprasert Cast: Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, Primrata Dech-Udom, Saranyu Wonggrajang, Primrata Dechudom, Petchai Wongkamlao, Nirutti Sirijanya, Supakorn ‘Tok’ Kijusuwan

ONG BAK 3 picks up where ONG BAK 2 had left off: Tien is captured, tortured and almost beaten to death by the Garuda King before he is rescued by royal decree and brought back to the Kana Khone villagers. There he receives extensive medical treatment as well as spiritual treatment: according to Phra Bua Tien was born with sin, and despite his body being almost dysfunctional now his spirit is still wandering around. In order to bring back and fully revive Tien the villagers create a golden Buddha image resembling Tien, and once back on his feet Tien is being taught meditation as well as he learns more about his Karma: his destiny is to bring peace to this world and fight sins and sinners. In the meantime, the Garuda King is killed by Bhuti Sangkha who declares himself successor to the throne. Soon after he kills or captures all Kana Khone villagers, including Tien’s love interest Pim. Once more Tien must fight dark powers and is heading for a final showdown with Bhuti Sangkha.

After leaving the audience with unfinished business in 2008, ONG BAK 3 aims to close the books and deliver a proper ending to the saga. ONG BAK 3 begins with Tien’s martyrdom in captivity and unfortunately takes this very seriously: they are trying too hard to transform Tony Jaa into a literal martyr figure here. A blind man could see the references to Jesus Christ, but you might also find a fair share of Lord Buddha and others in Jaa’s portrayal of Tien. ONG BAK 3 is anyway an amalgamation of Buddhism, black magic, western beliefs and other forms of spirituality, so it doesn’t really come as a surprise that also Christian motifs are used to dramatize Jaa’s role.

After the first thirty minutes or so I was close to write off ONG BAK 3, but luckily I sat through all the beating and healing and meditating and the script not making sense whatsoever. Not that the Phra advising Tien to meditate and to follow his destiny as do-gooder is in any way original, or that his recovery having more to do with his mental health than his physical (obviously strongly influenced by Jaa’s own beliefs and practices) would be a surprise. Neither do the various plot points make us wonder (if so then only in disbelief).

I do not share the opinion of some other writers that ONG BAK 3 is a technically accomplished film. It is most definitely not. The editing often doesn’t match, numerous times the visuals are lackluster, and the music more than once sounds like cheap library music. Aesthetically ONG BAK 2 is superior, but otherwise it’s the heavily fluctuating quality ONG BAK 3 has in common with the predecessors.

Some things do work out better though: a finer balance between story, character development and action, Tony Jaa’s improved acting skills, less wire-fu and a more back-to-the-roots bone-breaking fighting style with many grim sequences, some outstanding set pieces, most notably a fight among an elephant herd, more emotional involvement of the audience (this time we actually care) and a good dose of never before seen elegance, thanks to a game-changing idea: to see the combatants as dancing partners. The final training sequences and the following showdown are beautifully choreographed, and even though they might not receive a warm reception by all die-hard martial arts fans they are among the most outstanding moments of ONG BAK 3.

When the credits start rolling at the end of ONG BAK 3 a few thing come to mind instantly. First of all that enough is enough: ONG BAK so needs no fourth installment. Secondly, that without creating an artificial second part ONG BAK 2 and 3 combined would probably have made for a better, less redundant, more complete and final sequel to ONG BAK. Furthermore, that I found part 3 more enjoyable than part 2, although this is hard to qualify, and even harder to quantify. It’s a close call and fans will have a hard time to decide which of the two they prefer.

In addition it seemed to me that ONG BAK 3 focused on its story and hero in a more multidimensional way, with the “scarred Buddha image” (Ong Bak in Thai) shown in one scene symbolizing both Tien’s physical and spiritual battle, a point that was largely lost in ONG BAK 2. And finally that despite all the talking about values and sins and all the good intentions the killing of Bhuti Sangkha is a double-edged sword: his death is not intentional (he falls and unfortunately dies accidentally), but Tien who set out to “heal” Bhuti Sangkha from evil still had a hand in it. In dubio pro reo: to be fair, let’s just say ONG BAK 3 probably makes more sense than its predecessors. That’s not a lot of sense, but I’d consider ONG BAK 3 well-rounded by comparison.

It’s a pity that ONG BAK 2 and 3 are both fragments. ONG BAK 2 is a dark, gritty and unsatisfying medieval charade, a mixed bag of fighting styles, plot threads and sketchy direction, enjoyable only for about half of its running time and adding up to nothing. ONG BAK 3, albeit a thin script featuring only three major scenes, a very limited number of characters and a story that’s rushed and scenic in the first half finally is concentrating more on its hero and his motifs and, thank god, has a real ending. Also, Bhuti Sangkha is a great villain, I would have wished for more than one encounter with him.

If ONG BAK 3 is more of the same, or better, or worse, may not be that essential. ONG BAK is a unique action movie trilogy that has and will once more put Thai martial arts movies in the limelight. ONG BAK’s true accomplishment therefore is not its cinematic perfection, but its undisputed relevance for the genre.




Thailand 2009  Directed by: Thanapon Maliwan Script: Anuwat Kaewsopark, Thanapon Maliwan  Production: Thanapon Maliwan, Russell Wong, Chokchai Ptchpunna  Cinematography: Arnon Chunprasert  Editing: Sombat Thepkumdee  Music: Tuomas Kantelinen  Cast: Mike B., Russell Wong, Intira Jaroenpura, Patharawarin Timkul, Erik Markus Schuetz, Winston Sefu, Lak-Khet Waslikachart

THE SANCTUARY is a typical epigone of the Tony Jaa era and tells the well-known story of lost ancient artifacts and the hunt for them. In view of the thin plot I didn’t exactly get goose bumps, but ONG BAK or CHOCOLATE weren’t blessed with much intellectual depth either. This is fan fodder where other qualities are the priority.

Interestingly enough: THE SANCTUARY turns out to be quite an O.K. martial arts film that scores above average (literally). Much has been done right here that has been screwed up with many other B-movies of this kind. The INDIANA JONES story however contributes very little to the fact that THE SANCTUARY became a small surprise.

So what is it? First and foremost the better cast: Russell Wong delivers another good performance as charismatic gangster, Mike B. handles his dialogues well (albeit not as well as his fights), his love interest is likeable and avoids that common hooker-look, and the farang are cast clearly better than this is usually the case. Altogether they are simply the slightly better actors, slightly more credible, have somewhat more character.

Also some of the fights are executed pretty well; all in all the action looks unpretentious, much to the film’s benefit, but when all hell breaks loose, it really breaks loose. Martial arts fans may miss some extreme action or edgy highlights, but those who prefer a solid action movie with solid movie-like qualities should be happy with THE SANCTUARY. The cinematography helps making THE SANCTURY even more dynamic than it already is, while the sound-mix and some effects are pretty punchy and powerful; someone proved to pay attention to detail in all major departments.

Perhaps the words „compact“ or “tight” best describe the film: THE SANCTUARY uses space and time optimally for its standards, it wastes no resources, fits like a skinny jeans. Masterpieces look different, but throughout its 80+ minutes of slam-bang it doesn’t lower its guard a sec.

THE SANCTUARY appears to take its characters, the story and the dramaturgy seriously, despite all restrictions. THE SANCTUARY therefore is not simply another pretext for heaps of stunts, but a real film. That at least is a beginning.