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Monday, June 17, 2024

ONG BAK 3 -- DVD Review by Porfle

Originally posted on 2/10/11

Martial arts superstar Tony Jaa and his mentor Panna Rittikrai have collaborated once again to give us ONG BAK 3 (2010), the final film in the trilogy they began in 2003.  While pretty to look at, you have to wait for the fists and feet to start flying before things get really interesting.

Taking place once again in 15th-century Thailand and resuming where the previous film left off, the evil Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang) has captured Tien (Jaa) and orders every bone in his body broken.  Tien doesn't submit to this quietly, hence the film's first frenetic fight scene which is pretty impressive.  What follows after he's subdued is a gratuitous martyrdom sequence that may remind you of PASSION OF THE CHRIST, especially since Tien is later resurrected after his body is returned to his village. 

In addition to this prolonged execution scene, the subsequent passages showing Tien's agonizing struggle to recover from his injuries and regain his fighting abilities show the tendency of directors Jaa and Rittikrai to overdramatize.  Heavily stylized almost to abstraction, these fever dream-like scenes come at us one after another with a vengeance, striving for one emotional crescendo after another until the viewer is numbed by them.

It's almost as though the film itself were a hardnosed drill sergeant relentlessly prodding our emotions along--"FEEL, two, three, four!"--with the grandiose musical score working overtime to drive it all home.  Sometimes this works, but at other times, such as when Tien's beloved Pim (Primorata Dejudom) urgently sings while Tien lurches his way through dance therapy, come off as somewhat goofy.  A later, quieter scene with Pim and a recovering Tien sharing a romantic dance together turns into yet another superficial slow-motion montage of lap-dissolving images rather than a truly meaningful exchange.

Despite all of this, however, ONG BAK 3 turns into a real dynamo whenever the action kicks in. The creepy Crow Ghost, Bhuti Sangkha (Dan Chupong), a supernatural entity who takes on Lord Rajasena in his quest for power, has a ruthless fighting style and plows through scores of opponents with acrobatic abandon.  When he usurps Rajasena's crown and kidnaps the people of Tien's village (including Pim) as slaves, Tien wages a spectacular one-man battle against his guards that ends with a showdown between him and Crow Ghost that pulls out all the stops.

This fight sequence takes place amidst several elephants with the participants coming dangerously close to getting trampled at times.  The huge beasts figure into the action in other surprising ways as well, as stuntmen bounce off of them like rag dolls or swing on their tusks to launch themselves at each other.

You really have to hand it to these fearless Thai stuntmen who literally throw themselves into their work with such reckless abandon--several times I had to rewind and watch certain stunts over again just to make sure I really saw someone do something that dangerous.  With masters of such stunning physical prowess as Jaa and Chupong working with these amazing and dedicated stunt performers, and directors that know how to shoot it all to its best advantage, the thrilling fight sequences are truly a wonder to behold. 

The DVD from Magnolia's "Magnet" label is in 2.35:1 widescreen with Thai and English soundtracks (Dolby 5.1 and 2.0) and English and Spanish subtitles.  Extras consist of the brief featurette "HDNet: A Look at Ong Bak 3" and a trailer.

ONG BAK 3 is extravagantly photographed but rarely reaches the emotional intensity it labors to achieve.  Only when Tony Jaa cranks it up and dazzles us with those famous martial arts moves does the film become as much fun to watch as we want it to be, and when it does, it's riveting.


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