Sunday, March 15, 2009

Ong-Bak 2 "awesome" at SXSW


Ong-Bak 2 made its international festival premiere at the South by Southwest festival in Austin as the opener of the Fantastic Fest at Midnight program at the Alamo Drafthouse.

An early barometer of Ong-Bak 2 buzz from the fest came from Twitter, where "awesome" was used a lot in twits by the likes of @ChrisHall78, @SideOneTrackOne, Mrim86, @rejects, @peteramartin, @bugbare, @shotosu and @noahphex.

Others, like @bcrews, @domeister, @prisco, @lola0813 and @DrewAtHitflix tempered that "awesome" with a seasoning of "WTF?" I think @rodneydp summed up that sentiment best, saying:

Ong-Bak 2 makes no sense at all. No sense. The insane fighting makes it worth watching, though."

Then there were still others, like @williambgoss and @Oxfordfilmfreak, who were more impressed with the winner of the beer-chug contest held before the film.

And there were still others like @DavidHarley, who said Ong-Bak 2 is "the Episode I of martial-arts films", which as a Stars Wars fan I take to be a diss.

Apart from the microblogging, there are actual full-blown reviews of Ong-Bak 2.

Film School Rejects has Day 1 coverage, and a review. Here's the best part:

So at the end of the night, how do you sum up Ong-Bak 2 with an inappropriate and nonsensical metaphor? Picture the hottest Asian woman you’ve ever seen. One hand is feeding you the most delicious Thai food you’ve ever tasted, and the other is stroking your abstinence ring. Then picture her beating the shit out of you for almost two hours straight. It makes little sense, but you wouldn’t be able to say no to it. That’s the brutal beauty of Ong-Bak 2. The greatest martial arts movie ever made. Not the smartest, or the funniest, or the most dramatic -- the greatest. Anyone who tells you different is wrong.

It's a very positive review.

Cinema is Dope has a rather lengthy review. Here's a sampling:

What Jaa does here with the action has to be appreciated for what it accomplishes which is a highly unique experience that simply cannot be replicated or ported over to anything else. This singular uniqueness and magic puts him up there with the likes of Bruce Lee and others -- a very select group. Any doubts you may have had about Jaa in a certain ridiculous film he did immediately after Ong-Bak will be gone. So let's take a moment now that all the drama is out of the way to stand up and applaud the action Jaa delivers in Ong-Bak 2! The epic last fight scene in particular is an instant classic that adds a completely experience of artistry to it whereas Ong-Bak felt more commercial and far less ambitious. This Stanley Kubrick-like approach to constructing action with full lush epic and grandiose details and colors and attention to every aspect of its construction will lead this film to be discussed for a damn long time. There are many cool fight scenes in contemporary cinema but few that will leave any kind of mark on history. To say that people hundred plus years from now will be scratching their head wondering how Jaa did certain things in the fight scenes here is a huge understatement.

Wow. Comparisons to Bruce Lee and Kubrick in the same paragraph.

Hitflix includes the Ong-Bak 2 screening its Day One coverage. Here's an excerpt:

Tony Jaa was the star of the first film, but this time out, he's in full control, and despite his breakdown halfway through filming and his weird Col. Kurtz-like sabaatical in the jungles of Thailand, he eventually finished the film. It doesn't really make complete sense as a narrative [...] but it's the way Jaa tells the story, and the fact that the film ends just as all the pieces are starting to drop into place, leaving us with a tease for part three instead of any real resolution feels to me like a result of that breakdown more than any real storytelling choice. No matter, though. The film works on the level that it has to work, as a piece of visceral action cinema, and if you're a martial arts fan at all, you have to see this movie. Jaa is the most electrifying action star working today, and there are fights in this film that are amazing, end to end. One of the reasons I love his Thailand stunt team is because they are all obviously completely insane, willing to endure whatever close-contact brutality they have to in order to make a shot look great. Everything here looks like no punches are pulled. I'm surprised anyone survived these fights, Jaa in particular. He takes an unholy amount of abuse in the film, and especially in the final fight, which is about fifteen solid minutes of madness.

Tony's difficulties during the making of Ong-Bak 2 and the abrupt ending will continue to dog this film as it makes its way around the festival circuit and is released on DVD. Hopefully Ong-Bak 2 will properly packaged with Ong-Bak 3 -- if Magnolia/Magnet gets it. Once Ong-Bak 2 and Ong-Bak 3 are seen as a whole, that criticism will quiet down.

There's more reviews. Cyber Monkey Death Squad is enthusiastic, but Cinema Blend was in the camp that was more impressed by the "naked hairy man blowing on a ram's horn [Alamo Drafthouse's Tim League, introducing the film] and a pre-movie beer chugging contest" than the actual film.

Update: Film.com has a review.

Update 2: Harry Knowles has coverage and a review at Ain't It Cool News

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