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  Ong Bak 3  
Ong Bak 3

Tony Jaa prepares to punish with his elbows in Ong Bak 3.
Thai: องค์บาก 3  
Year: 2010  
Director: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai  
Producer: Tony Jaa, Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Rittikrai, Akarapol Techaratanaprasert  
Writer: Tony Jaa, Panna Rittikrai  

Tony Jaa, Dan Chupong, Nirut Sirichanya, Primrata Dej-Udom, Sarunyu Wongkrachang, Mum Jokmok (Petchtai Wongkamlao), Sorapong Chatree, Santisuk Promsiri, Supakorn Kitsuwon

The Skinny: An action fix but pretty much a drag in every other way. Ong Bak 3 brings Tony Jaa's strangely epic martial arts saga to its close while never really showing Jaa progress as an actor or a filmmaker. Possibly Jaa's last film, which is a real shame as he's never truly lived up to his potential.  
by Kozo:
Remember when Tony Jaa’s movies were fun? I certainly do, which is why it’s easy to give a thumbs down to Ong Bak 3, the last and worst film in Jaa’s shouldn’t-be-but-is-an-epic-anyway trilogy. As in Ong Bak 2, Jaa serves as star and co-director, with Jaa’s mentor Panna Rittikrai picking up the slack. Since Ong Bak 2 ended on a bewildering cliffhanger, it naturally left audiences expecting more. Ong Bak 3 delivers that more, wrapping up the loose ends left over from the previous film, and it even adds some details that make the sequels into prequels for the original Ong Bak. The circular storytelling is clever, but does it make up for the grind that is Ong Bak 3? Not at all, which is where disappointment enters.

When we last left rebel warrior Tien (Tony Jaa), he was about to be murdered by the minions of evil Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrachang). That doesn’t happen, but Tien is tortured in loving slow motion before a last minute pardon leads to his freedom. Now crippled, Tien recuperates, trains and then trains some more, while experiencing flashbacks and hanging around humorlessly with his fated love (Primrata Dej-Udom) and also the village idiot (Jaa regular Mum Jokmok). Meanwhile, Lord Rajasena starts going batty, but is soon threatened by the gloriously evil Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong, returning from the previous film), who’s looking to graduate from being evil to being evil AND having his own army. When all is told, there will be blood. And fighting. And dirt. And finally a merciful ending.

As expected, the action in Ong Bak 3 is fine, with solid choreography, strong impact and the usual athleticism from Tony Jaa. Still, despite the clear competence on display, it all feels like a step down from the previous two Ong Bak films. Tony Jaa should have taken a page from Jackie Chan’s book of eighties vehicles and attempted to outdo himself, but he doesn’t attempt anything new or inventive here. The original Ong Bak had plenty of jaw-dropping stuntwork, and Ong Bak 2 featured Jaa running on top of a herd of stampeding elephants – which is pretty damn dangerous if you stop to think about it. There was surprise and peril in the previous films, and even though the elephants return in Ong Bak 3, nothing as dangerous occurs. Still, the film provides a fighting fix, and audiences who care only for elbows, kicks and knocks to the head should be served.

Unfortunately, even with all the roughhousing, Ong Bak 3 fails at being an actual fun motion picture. The original Ong Bak had an entertaining vibe with action sequences played for laughs and also awe. Ong Bak 3 goes for awe, but of a different, more pretentious kind. No longer is it about the action being awesome – now we’re supposed to see something dramatic or emotional in it. This type of action-as-drama can work in moderation, but with montages and training sequences that go on forever, Ong Bak 3 quickly wears out its welcome. Even when Jackie Chan tries this trick, he fails. Tony Jaa, what makes you think you can pull this off with your limited acting chops? Basically, Jaa tries to make the emotional and dramatic context matter far more than the action. Note to the filmmakers: this is not why we attend Tony Jaa films.

Then again, there may not be any more Tony Jaa films to attend. After Ong Bak 3, it was widely reported that Jaa quit the film biz to become a monk, leaving as his legacy a withering film series and a solid B-movie named after soup. Those four features represent nearly eight years of work – a smaller output than the one-to-two films per year that Jackie Chan pumped out back in the eighties and nineties. Comparing Jaa to Chan has always been a bit unfair as Chan was equally talented with comedy and action, but when Jaa first gained international notice he seemed to have a quality that only Chan previously possessed. It wasn’t about just fighting or power, it was about the ability to pull out that stunt, that move, that jaw-dropping moment that made audiences gasp, cheer or say, “Did you see that?” Like Jackie Chan before him, Tony Jaa could amaze . Now the only amazing thing about Jaa is how much time and potential he’s wasted. (Kozo, 2010)

Availability: DVD (Malaysia)
Region 3 PAL
PMP Entertainment
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Thai Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English, Chinese and Malay Subtitles
*Also Available on Blu-ray Disc
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image credit: Copyright ©2002-2017 Ross Chen