|Photoshop and (presumably) electric guitar solos|
Ong Bak 3 picks up right where Ong Bak 2 left off. Tien (Tony Jaa) has been captured by Lord Rajasena's men and they have some fun with him. Sure, Tien gives almost as good as he gets, but it's hard to win a fight when your arms are tied and the enemy isn't taking any chances.
|More intimidating than handcuffs|
|But he looks so nice!|
Ong Bak 3 looks an awful lot like Ong Bak 2, and there's a reason for that. Apparently, the two movies were intended to be one long epic, but budgetary and scheduling limitations forced the story to be split into two parts. In other words, unused footage from Ong Bak 2 wound up in Ong Bak 3. If that sounds a little lame to you, I agree. Thanks to the story limitations, Tony Jaa is kept from fighting for most of the first hour of this 90-minute movie; the first extended action sequence actually features Dan Chupong instead of Jaa. Chupong is pretty awesome, but that's still pretty lame. For reasons that I simply don't understand, Ong Bak 3 shifts the focus away from fighting and toward Tien's journey to recovery and mental peace. Big mistake.
Tony Jaa is not a very good actor. He's a bad-ass martial artist, but his emotional range goes from "blank stare" to "gritted teeth." Here, he is forced to act tortured for about forty minutes and try to embody the physicality of someone recovering from horrific wounds.
Petchtai Wongkamlao returns again, in what I believe is his third character in the three movies. After being obnoxious in the first film and only making a brief appearance in Part 2, Wongkamlao returns as an apparently mentally handicapped (or possibly very drunk) person; he's not terribly funny here, but it's definitely his best work in the series.
|Comic relief sometimes means "stupid wigs"|
Ong Bak 3 was co-directed by Tony Jaa and Panna Rittikrai, just as the last film was. This time, though, both men found themselves directing something they do not have much experience with: actors. Ong Bak 3 is not a long movie, but the vast majority of it focuses on Tien's physical and emotional recovery, while Rajasena suffered from bizarre hallucinations. There are some basic moral themes at work here (don't be mad all the time, don't betray people, etc.) that take on a religious tone at times. That's fine, I suppose, but these directors specialize in action choreography, and this film does not have enough of that.
Of course, there are some pretty good fight scenes in Ong Bak 3, and that is what American audiences are probably looking for in this sequel. How good are they? That's a tough question. Production-wise, they look very nice. The sets are epic and gorgeous, and some of the set pieces are fantastic, especially since Jaa doesn't use wires or CGI (most of the time) in his fight scenes.
|So...real big elephant, real small action star|
|As Danny Kaye would say, "They're doing choreography"|