- Directed by Pracha Pinkaew
- Starring Tony Jaa, RZA, Marrese Crump, Rhatha Pho-ngam, Jeeja Yanin, Teerada Kittisiriprasert, David Isamalone, Kazu Patrick Tang, Petchtai Wongkumlao
- Released in Thai cinemas on October 23, 2013; rated 15+
- Wise Kwai's rating: 3/5
With an overly complicated plot, Tom-Yum-Goong 2, the much-anticipated new action flick from martial-arts star Thatchakorn “Tony Jaa” Yeerum, has turned out to be a rather bland concoction.
This is despite it being in 3D and pretty much non-stop action that crams in other martial-arts stars, including Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda and America’s Marrese Crump, plus hip-hop musician and kung-fu aficionado RZA and Thai singer-actress Rhatha “Yaya Ying” Pho-ngam.
It's better than Jaa’s previous feature, Ong-Bak 3, but is not as strong as his major studio breakout, 2003’s Ong-Bak and 2005’s Tom-Yum-Goong, a.k.a. The Protector.
Even more disappointing, it might possibly be the last Thai film Jaa makes. Tom-Yum-Goong 2 comes out amidst a feud between Jaa and his studio, Sahamongkol Film international, and its powerful boss, Somsak “Sia Jiang” Techaratanaprasert. He is upset that Jaa is now working in Hollywood, making a Fast and Furious sequel and teaching Vin Diesel Muay Thai.
The first Tom-Yum-Goong took Jaa to Australia as he chased gangsters who’d stolen his baby elephant. The relatively simple plot was an aim to broaden Jaa’s international appeal, setting up fights for him around Sydney landmarks.
Tom-Yum-Goong 2 stays in Thailand and again has Jaa’s character Kham losing his elephant Khon. But it keeps the international flavor, with such foreign fighters as Crump and RZA, plus David Ismalone (“Mad Dog” from Ong-Bak) and Kazu Patrick Tang (Raging Phoenix).
The set-up for the plot scripted by Ekkasith Thairath is labored, showing a snooze-worthy montage of news headlines about a war in fictional far-away lands. For some reason, Thailand is chosen as the location for the signing of a peace treaty.
And somehow, this will involve Kham’s elephant being stolen by the foreigner criminal mastermind portrayed by RZA. He leads a small army of martial-arts warriors, each with a number tattoo to indicate how good they are. Among them are the lethally brutal Number 2 (Crump) and the fierce Twenty (Rhatha), whose tattoo is spelled out across her cleavage.
Thankfully, it only takes 15 minutes or so for Kham to start running around, searching for his elephant, which was initially taken by the crooked owner of an elephant camp. But then that guy turns up dead, and Kham is standing over his body when the man’s nieces show up – Jeeja and another actress, Teerada kittisiriprasert. They are supposed to be twins, but apart from their pixie-bob hairstyles and clothing, they look nothing alike. Still, it’s pretty confusing trying to follow the Chocolate star Jeeja as she throws down against Jaa for the first time.
Arriving with the twins is a motorcycle gang. They chase Kham up a flight of stairs and onto a building’s roof. This is the best fight sequence of the movie, with the noisy bikes whizzing all around as Kham ducks and dodges them all with acrobatic ease. One smashes through a skylight and the camera angle quickly shifts above it to catch the bike and glass shards spiraling out of the screen in 3D.
More nifty camera work comes from a point-of-view shot of Kham jumping from the roof to a balcony on another building.
Kham eventually commandeers one of the bikes and leads the hundreds motorcycling miscreants on a chase through alleys and down an elevated motorway. He also takes a crazy ride on top of a drift-racing car.
And too soon, with an oil tanker explosion, it’s all over.
The action spills into a shipyard where Kham and the Pixie Sisters get the hurt put on them by the imposing Number 2.
While Kham is pursued by RZA’s gang of toughs, and is eventually captured and branded as No 1, he’s also a fugitive from a squad of Interpol officers who include Kham’s old friend from Sydney, Sergeant Mark (Petchthai “Mum Jokmok” Wongkamlao). I'm not sure why he's in this movie, but he at least gets to voice what everyone is thinking.
"Are you sure it's an elephant and not a kitten? Why do you keep losing him?"
From the first encounter with Crump, the fights all tend to blur together, taking place in such locations as dark warehouses and subway tunnels. For the most part, they are framed too tightly and move too fast to make any sense of.
One fun bit has Jaa and Crump fighting on an electrified railway line. In a move that defies the laws of physics, they both dip their feet in water and stand on the rails shocking each other. As their fists swing they make the same sounds as lightsabers from Star Wars.
Director Prachya Pinkaew and Jaa’s mentoring martial-arts guru Panna Rittikrai clearly had a ball coming up with all kinds of ways to have fists, feet, heads, elbows, weapons and elephant trunks zoom out of the screen in 3D. Some effects work, some don't. Jeeja and her "sister" have some kind of weird electric weapon they throw, but it's always hard to make out what it is.
Despite everyone's best efforts, the fights in Tom-Yum-Goong 2 lack the sizzle and originality of their earlier efforts in Ong-Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong.
On the plus side is Jaa, whose dour onscreen demeanor seems to have softened with marriage, fatherhood and maturity. Compared to his earlier films, he appears more at ease and natural. Perhaps Hollywood is where he’ll create his happiest memories.
- Tony Jaa is fast and furious as Tom-Yum-Goong 2 premieres
- Tony Jaa no slave to Sahamongkol, manager says
- Not so fast Jaa, says a furious Sia Jiang
- More Marrese Crump, bit more Jeeja in second Tom-Yum-Goong 2 teaser
- Tony Jaa moving too fast and furious for Tom-Yum-Goong 2
- Tom-Yum-Goong 2 English-subtitled teaser
- Tom-Yum-Goong 2 is still coming, plus more from Panna
- Tony Jaa is getting married
- Tony Jaa and Jeeja take time out for flood relief
- Marrese Crump joins Tom-Yum-Goong 2 cast
- Tony Jaa and Jeeja in 3D for Tom-Yum-Goong 2