I see a lot of movies every year. A
ton. But this year I’ve decided I don’t see enough movies, so one of my
New Year Resolutions was to simply see more. And to write about them.
See, that’s the other half of the equation: I see a ton of movies, but
I write about comparatively few of them. There are a lot of reasons,
but they mainly boil down to the fact that I feel the  need to do long
form reviews, and sometimes – like in the midst of Sundance – I just
don’t have the time.

so was born this new blog! I aim to make an entry for every single
movie I see in 2010. Some entries may be very short, some may be
lengthy. Entries may take a couple of days to be posted. Let’s see how
long this lasts.

last  thing: one of my main objectives this year is to rewatch more
movies. I know this sounds like a strange goal, but there are films I
haven’t seen since high school, which means it’s been almost a lifetime
since I saw them. Recently I rewatched Black Christmas for the first
time since the 1980s, and I might as well have been seeing the movie
for the first time. I’m interested in getting a look at some movies I
loved or hated twenty or even ten years ago and seeing how I feel about
them now.

Let’s begin…

#41 Ong Bak 2
d. Tony Jaa

I’m not entirely sure what to make of this movie. It’s certainly better looking than the first film, but it’s missing that movie’s scrappy fun. It’s also nearly devoid of plot, and the ending of the movie, coupled with the trailer for Ong Bak 3, makes me think that this was intended to be the first two acts of a larger film. On top of that the connection to Ong Bak feels pretty tenuous in this film – the first movie takes place in the modern day while this takes place in some medieval period in Thailand’s history (which could have been the 20s for all I know about this nation).

Tony Jaa is a kid of noble blood who is sent by his parents to dance school. When the king makes some sort of ill-defined power grab his parents are killed and Little Jaa is whisked away, where he ends up with a band of outlaws, who train him up in every martial art they can think of. He’s on the road to being the king of the outlaws, but before he can do so, he must take care of one last bit of personal business: he has to get his revenge on the king.

That’s actually the entire movie, so I guess I spoiled it for you. But you can understand why this feels like it’s just part of a more full story. The plot of this film feels utterly incomplete. And there’s a very quick story that’s told in almost tortuously long flashback detail PLUS the flashbacks aren’t quite obvious as such at first.

But whatever, it’s a fucking muy thai movie, and nobody is tuning in for the talking bits. As a fight movie it mostly delivers, although Jaa’s often lovely cinematography robs the fights of some of their dirty immediacy. Possibly the best part of Ong Bak was watching the film and going ‘Holy shit!’ as particularly savage hits or crazy stunts were replayed from multiple angles. The whole enterprise was so amatuerish that you felt like the filmmakers wouldn’t know how to block a scene so as to fake a hit; in Ong Bak 2 everything’s so pretty that you know it’s all blocked. There’s something punk rock about Ong Bak and something grander and more stylized in Ong Bak 2.

Ong Bak 2 does have something that tickles my fancy, though – in the final battle Jaa suddenly faces a whole bunch of seemingly Japanese guys who have their faces covered. It took me a minute to realize this was because all of these stunt guys had played parts earlier in the movie and Jaa didn’t want you recognizing their faces in this last bit. I’m not sure if what appeared to be Japanese dress and weapons actually means something or if Jaa thinks it looks cool.

There’s something about Ong Bak 2, and about Tony Jaa’s meltdown while making it, that reminds me of Mel Gibson. The film looks great, the filmmaker is crazy and there’s essentially not much more than eye candy going on. Both filmmakers come from scrappy backgrounds but seem to have forgotten what that meant; it’s like the Ramones releasing a heavily orchestrated concept album. It may sound good, and I may like it, but it ain’t the same thing.