Friday, October 25, 2013

Review: Tom-Yum-Goong 2

  • 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.

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  1. thanks.
    disappointing to hear this but I was expecting it anyway because the trailers were no convincing.

    All I care about is the fight.
    Ong Bak 3 was a failure.
    I look forward to the fights even though story sucks.

    1. I agree with you, the fights make martial arts movies, no one cares for the plots in action (as much) or martial arts movies, its the action and fights that matter.
      People who want a storyline are betteroff watching some chick flick or soap opera drama.

  2. This movie is taking way too long to be available, been waiting for long time for its official release, and ok I don't live in Thailand or in Malaysia (my home) anymore, and reside in Canada, and it's taking way too long to be uploaded or available, wether this movie is good or bad im starting to lose interest in it because of this super long wait, i'll probably end up forgetting about it. This is what happens when you live in the stupid western side of the world, all the great movies are mega delayed.
    I'll probably forget about this movie and move on I don't know or care about its release as much anymore, its been too long and my patience is running out. Glad those who watched it enjoyed it.
    Lucky people.

    1. It'll get there eventually. I understand the compulsion to feed instant gratification, but sometimes things take time to make their way around the world. In the meantime, while you are waiting, you have nothing else you really want to watch?

  3. I was waiting for these movies lol Special ID (luckily we got a copy of that movie within few days of its release and good copy too for screener quality), ninja 2 shadow of a tear (I understand that's going to be out next month), Berandal got delayed till 2014, that leaves tom yum goong 2. I call this set of movies the big 4 lol.
    Sorry for my post I've just been waiting like everyone else for its release to get a view of the movie. Lucky you saw the movie bro.
    Know any good martial arts movies in the mean time ?


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