Director: Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai Release Date: 16 October Review by Adam Tobias Do you see the 2 in Ong Bak 2: The Beginning? Of course you do, but I had to ask that rhetorical question because I wanted to emphasize a point about what most of us have come to expect when we see a number follow the main title of a movie. I can only speak for myself, but whenever this happens I tend to believe the number signifies that what I am about to watch is the sequel to another film. So you’ll have to forgive me for thinking that Ong Bak 2: The Beginning was going to be a follow-up to 2003’s Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, which stars martial arts expert Tony Jaa as a modern day villager who is sent to Bangkok by his people to recover the head of a special statue that was stolen by an immoral businessman and his cold-blooded gang of thugs. Sure, Ong Bak 2 is a sequel to Ong-Bak in name, but the only similarities they really share are they’re both light on plot and showcase the mind-blowing talents of the acrobatic Jaa, who performs all of his own stunts without mechanical assistance or computer-generated effects. In reality, though, Ong Bak 2 can actually be considered a prequel to the original, seeing as it is set in 15th century Thailand when the Kingdom of Ayothaya has seized the territory of Sukhothai and expanded its power across the highland. The paper-thin story of Ong Bak 2 revolves around Tien (Natdanai Kongthong), a spirited youngster whose life is set in motion when he loses his family and narrowly escapes from some savage slave traders who want to kill him. Taken under the wing of an experienced bandit, an older Tien (Jaa) vows to train in countless styles of weaponry and martial arts so he can get revenge on the people who left him without a mother and father. It was reasonably easy for me to overlook the lackluster narratives of Ong-Bak and Jaa’s second major movie, The Protector, because his impressive martial arts skills left me in utter shock, but that same kind of leniency just wouldn’t work for Ong Bak 2. Why, you ask? It’s because Ong Bak 2 is surprisingly lacking in the memorable fight scene department and the screenplay by Ake Eamchuen frequently moves at a snail’s pace. (It takes about 20 minutes for Jaa to first appear on the screen and the most exciting brawls don’t occur until there is about 30 minutes left in the film.) Sorry, but when I sit down to view a motion picture that stars Tony Jaa, I expect it to be filled with bone-crunching brawls that continually one-up each other. But it feels like Jaa, who co-directed Ong Bak 2 with Panna Rittikrai, was so concerned about the style of his film (it has a comparable look to 300 and Apocalypto) that he forgot to include an ample amount of stunts and rumbles in the jungle. (Ong Bak 2 is well shot and has a slicker look than its predecessor, however, beauty is only skin deep.) So, instead of focusing more on the choreographed and brutal hand-to-hand combats that made Jaa a famous movie star, Ong Bak 2 tries to be this profound historical epic that has something important to say — the only problem is it ends up taking itself way too seriously. Boring and insipid are words I never planned on hearing myself say when describing a Tony Jaa film, but I guess there’s a first for everything. Rating: 4/10