There's no relation between Ong Bak 2: The Beginning with the first Ong Bak, released a few years ago, except that it stars Tony Jaa, Thailand's big action hero, known previously as Panom Yeerum.
As this martial arts movie releases this weekend, the Hollywood Reporter claims it was "the most anticipated Thai movie ever." It was already a huge hit in Southeast Asia in 2008, and martial arts fans in North America have few other films to satisfy their lust for combat.
Perhaps taking the reins from action hits by Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, Jaa will build a successful franchise. Jaa has added directing and choreography to his credits with this film. It's co-directed by writer and stunt coordinator Panna Rittikrai.
The standard plot of the genre, the historical fantasy epic follows a young Thai boxer, circa 1431, who learns the skills and inner meaning of martial arts through a series of deadly tests from swordfights to vampires. But the big attraction is the star, Tony Jaa and his trademark amazing moves.
The original Ong Bak was a thriller set in contemporary Bangkok with lots of city action, but in this film Jaa's athleticism finds him skipping along the backs of elephants. He portrays the young boxer, Tien, as an adult, showing off various forms of martial arts including kung fu, judo, Thai boxing, and Natayuth, a blend of Thai dancing and martial arts Jaa invented for this film.
With the overseas success of Ong Bak 2, the production company, Sahamongkol Films, has already begun plans for the sequel, Ong Bak 3.