Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

My number one problem with ‘On Bak 2’ is that it ended with a cliffhanger. I do not like movies that end on a cliffhanger. Television shows I can deal with since the next show is coming next week, and at worst next season, but movies… Oh well, at least we didn’t have to wait too terribly long for the sequel to ‘On Bak 2’, titled ‘On Bak 3’ of course, which follows a movie I summed in one sentence as ‘A Beautiful Mess’. Ah… but with this sequel we have a movie that is equally beautiful, if not more so and on top of that this version was far less messy but unfortunately it’s not nearly as entertaining as the movie it follows.

When we last saw Tien (Tony Jaa), he had finally found a way into the fortress of Lord Rajesena (Saranyu Wonggrajang), a cat who is beyond evil, and was finally on the verge of fulfilling his lifelong quest of revenge. Of course it didn’t work out that way, the gig was up and Tien was captured. Tuning in on this episode we see Tien being tortured. Over and over and over again. Rajesena probably could’ve just killed him but we have mentioned he is evil so he just opts to torture Tien for an undetermined amount of time, with ‘undetermined’ equaling something along the lines of ‘an eternity’.

Eventually Tien is freed but he is in a very, very bad way. His girl Pim (Primrata Dechudom) prays and dances, his master Bua (Nirut Sirichanya) administers, but its touch and go. I think we all know that Tien can’t die on the operating table and eventually he regains consciousness but he is a broken, battered and beaten man who can barely walk and can’t even so much as hold a fork when pressed. He is gravely depressed and sees no reason to continue on with this life, if this is what life is going to be like.

On the other side of town Lord Rajesena is, as we like to say, tripping. He is experiencing nightmares about all of the terrible things he has done and worst still is that he’s made a deal with the lethal Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong) to handle his dirty work. Worst decision ever. The Crow Ghost wants so much more than just the occasional hired assassin gig, he wants to rule.

Back to Tien, he’s finally got his head together and has learned that his path to healing can only be attained through peace of mind and intense training. Gotta leave all that negativity and revenge murder nonsense behind. With the help of his woman and by fusing with the natural elements that surround him Tien will achieve a new level of enlightenment. Too bad the bad guy, that being Crow Ghost since we’re not going to concern ourselves too much with Lord Rajesena right now, hasn’t achieved the same level of enlightenment. I mean my man is enlightened and all, he’s just enlightened to the dark side and would like nothing better to have Tien toss away all of his new found peace and bring him over to the dark side right along with him. Exactly how evil is Crow Ghost? This dude kills elephants, which we know is a no-no in Thailand, and drinks their blood. Bastard. Something tells me he’s gonna get his, unless this movie ends on a cliffhanger as well.

I’m thinking if one is to truly receive all that ‘On Bak 3’ is offering then one has to be down with symbolism… I mean a lot of symbolism, mythology, philosophical movements, the tenants of Buddhism and then have a fairly solid understanding of this stuff. Now if you do understand all of that stuff I can’t guarantee that this movie will make any more sense or be any more entertaining to you since I don’t understand all of that stuff, but I sure hope that you will find this film enlightening in some way, otherwise you’re just kind of stuck, for the most part, watching Tony Jaa exercise and meditate. Personally, watching Tony Jaa exercise and meditate wasn’t all that much fun for me.

Whereas ‘On Bak 2’ was a beautifully shot mishmash of rock’em sock’em fight sequences, this is a film that was a beautifully shot mishmash of theoretical concepts with heavy symbolism highlighted by a few fight scenes wedged in-between. Far be it from me to crap on a guy attempting to connect to his inner Zen, but I’d just rather not see it dramatized, unless of course it was my initial plan to seek out to see a movie about a guy trying to connect with his Inner Zen, which I can assure you was not my initial plan. I thought I was going out see the continuation of a really angry dude trying to complete his lifelong bloody quest for revenge. Didn’t even get that. Somebody else got Tien’s revenge. I really do admire the attempt at some semblance of depth here, a deeper meaning leading to a higher calling… but it has been my limited experience that keeping it simple really, really works for movies like this. I wouldn’t lie to you. An angry dude crushing a bad guys larynx with his bare fists almost always works. Epilogues and closing credits are reserved for redemption and enlightenment.

Now the occasional action sequences were solid, though not as good as the mess of a movie that preceded this one, and the movie still was lovely to look at, but ultimately it was kind of dull. While ‘On Bak 2’ might’ve been an over budgeted, truncated, hastily finished rushed out mess, it was never dull. Color us disappointed with this one.

Real Time Web