Monday, September 7, 2009

Ong-Bak 2 on "must see" lists at TIFF

The Toronto International Film Festival starts on Thursday, September 10, and as the days tick closer to what's become North America's premiere film event (but not without controversy), the excitement over the fest's killer lineup is palpable. I can feel it, even from Thailand.

Given the buzz that has surrounded this film since even before it was released in Thailand last year, unsurprisingly it's Ong-Bak 2: The Beginning that's getting a lot of attention. The latest martial-arts extravaganza from Tony Jaa, which he had a hand in writing, directing and choreographing, is the closing film in the fest's cult-hitmaking Midnight Madness line-up.

It's on the can't-miss list at the Globe and Mail, picked by TIFF international programmer Jane Schoettle:

Because of Tony Jaa, and because my first Midnight Madness movie ever was Ong-Bak . ... I was very skeptical [back then] and I got blown away by the launch of this new, amazing Thai film star."

But an even more detailed recommendation comes from none other than Grady Hendrix, former blogger at the now-shuttered Variety Asia Kaiju Shakedown and programmer of the New York Asian Film Festival. He recommends Ong-Bak 2 in a guest submission to the TIFF blogs:

On-set shenanigans reached critical mass during the shooting of teeny tiny action star, Tony Jaa's, big fat directorial debut. The production went massively over budget, the shooting schedule stretched on into infinity and Jaa vanished at one point, rumored to be visiting a guru in the forest, or praying in seclusion, or hiding with his parents. Midnight deals were made, negotiations were presided over by police chiefs, and kidnap rumors swirled until everyone hugged and made up and Jaa agreed to go back to work. The resulting film is a jungley fever dream, as primitive as the pounding of the tom toms, full of leering close-ups and populated by a gallery of grotesques, like something Guy Maddin would have nightmares about after an evening spent watching Thai action films and eating spicy sausages. Massive and inarguable, Ong-Bak 2 is a dreadnaught of a movie that crushes everything in its path. Is it good? That's debatable. But is it entertaining? Aw, hell yeah.

I don't think there's anyone else in the world who could compare Tony Jaa to Guy Maddin, but is there any better way to get Canadians excited about seeing movies? Of course, it's also a great build up to to Ong-Bak 2's VOD release in the U.S. on September 25 and theatrical release on October 23.

Ong-Bak 2 is playing at 9.45am on Saturday, September 19 and then closes the festival at 11.59pm that night.

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