Chuck Norris, Jackie Chan, Jet Li, and I have grown old together, but being an actor/martial artist is a young man’s game. So, it makes sense that a new actor/martial artist would appear at some point and win the movie martial artist crown. My vote for best new martial artist is Tony Jaa.
I first saw Jaa in the movie Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior (2003). There were some martial art moves in this movie that I had never seen before. It appears that Jaa practices Muay Thai, a martial art style practiced in Thailand. What’s different about Muay Thai is that it includes a lot of elbow, knee, and shin strikes. The idea is that every part of your body is a weapon.
The sequel Ong-Bak 2 takes place hundreds of years ago in Thailand. It is the story of a military leader’s son, Tien (played by Tony Jaa), who seeks revenge against a clan leader who killed his parents. Tien escapes into the jungle and is eventually found by slave traders. The traders’ idea of fun is to throw Tien into a crocodile pit. Tien is rescued by pirates who then adopt him.
These are not like Caribbean pirates with ships. These pirates are more like bandits or highway robbers. These bandits live in a village where a lot of different martial arts masters also happen to live, including masters of magic, explosives, and psychic energy. Tien spends his youth mastering all of these martial arts.
Once Tien passes all his physical tests and proves his fighting skill, he leaves the bandits and begins searching for his parents’ killer. Of course, his first stop is the slave traders’ village where he pounds them into the ground and frees the slaves. Eventually, Tien finds his parents’ killer and fights him and his army.
After watching this movie twice, I think I followed the storyline, but I’m not sure. The plot was very confusing at times. So, my plot description might not be totally accurate and I have not included every plot twist because that might confuse things even more.
I loved the look, feel, and photography of this movie. In my opinion, the greatest cinematographers are from Asia. Sometimes, I forget about the movie and just sit back and watch the scenery.
Ong-Bak 2 has some fantastic fight scenes that I have watched twice and will watch many times again. Tony Jaa could teach Hollywood a few things about how to choreograph a fight scene.
I never thought I would say this, but I think Tony Jaa is as good as or better than Bruce Lee. Jaa is not a great actor (think Clint Eastwood). But as a martial artist, he is the best of the best.
If you’re not a martial arts fan, chances are you’re not going to like Ong-Bak 2. We’re not talking about Shakespeare or an Academy Award here. Some of the fight scenes went on too long. No matter what, it’s silly to have one guy fight a whole army. And fighting above and below an elephant is creative but somewhat comical. The plot was very confusing, which I think was caused by translation problems or bad editing. But if you like hard core martial arts movies, Ong-Bak 2 will take your chi away.