Originally, both "Ong Bak 2" and "Ong Bak 3" were supposed to be one film. I could go into the weird circumstances (which eventually lead to Tony Jaa to now be living in a monastery at the time of this review) of why these films are now two separate releases, but really that would take too long. As is, you can read my review of the rather fun first part by clicking the link on "Ong Bak 2" and then come back to this one.
Tien (Jaa) has been captured by the evil king that he has sworn to destroy at the end of "Ong Bak 2". Tortured to the point of death, he is miraculously saved by another random king. Now is a time for him to put aside his vengeance and hatred filled heart and truly embrace the light. He retrains his body and soul from scratch, only to find out his nemesis has been slain by the mystic crow fighter who is now terrorizing all the people of the land. If he is to defeat this evil mystic, Tien must let go of his past sins and move forward with his life. A life that is leading to one final showdown.
"Ong Bak 3" is a substantial let down even in comparison to its predecessor, but at least it still has plenty of kick ass action sequences to tide over us Martial Arts fans. Otherwise, its a rather poorly told Buddhist philosophy flick that rarely makes sense and takes too much time being over ridiculous to be take that seriously. The acting is really hit or miss and it ruins what should have been some great moments (his potential suicide on the cliff face for example). The score is over zealous and many moments are ruined from trying to make it too epic.
The plot seems to be trapped in a purgatorial state of being the extended cut of "Ong Bak 2" and being a true sequel. I watched "2" prior to viewing this one and I still had trouble making the connections I needed to for this film to work. Luckily, we get a ton of flashbacks (that start off very cheesy) to help us out. As a film on its own, it doesn't explain near enough for it to work, and as a sequel it feels like its poorly built on its plot execution. We don't nearly get enough of a build for the battle between Tien and the crow fighter and rarely is enough of Tien's journey expressed for us to truly want him to succeed. I'm sure if they ever release a version where "2" and "3" are edited back together, it will certainly redeem this film.
As I mentioned, "Ong Bak 3" does succeed at making some seriously cool action sequences. We saw him use lots of weapons in "2", but this one returns to his bone breaking beat downs and adds in a new more fluid martial art style to give us a rather cool comparison for a final battle. We get more elephant leaping fights, great hand to hand beat downs, and plenty more of the flighty aerobatics from the villain. If there is anywhere that a Tony Jaa film cannot fail, its the fight sequences. Those are what give this film its rating.
In the end, its easy to tell that this film was supposed to be part of "2". This one lacks too much for it to work on its own merits, despite some attempts to make it a true sequel with flash backs and its own 'story' concerning the rise of the crow fighter. It has great fights and some snazzy visual flair at times, but its rather poorly explained plot and over-the-top style make it a tough watch. Definitely waiting to see if they release a version with "2" and "3" put back together.
BONUS RANT: This film loves to fuck with the audience in 'dream sequences'. There is one with the original king and a nightmare with stone elephants that goes on FAR too long, but the kicker is the final fight scene which actually never occurs. Or maybe it does and Tien turns back time. Or something. It was really confusing at the end of why it happened. Oh well. We did get to see a guy struck by random lighting at the end of it either way. Score for random lightning even if it doesn't make a lick of sense. Oh and we see an elephant hurl a giant statue too. Score for that.
Written By Matt Reifschneider