ONG BAK was a hell of thing: Introducing the world to a particularly Thai method of ass-kicking, muay thai, and to muay thai's star student, Tony Jaa, it reinvigorated kung fu cinema. In 2003's Ong Bak—and its follow-up, 2005's The Protector—Jaa skittered up walls like Spider-Man and effortlessly whipped his elbow into people's noses; not since the first appearances of Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan, and Jet Li had there been a dude who was so much fun to watch kick people in the head.
Then Tony Jaa went crazy.
That's the story from the Thai tabloids anyway, which, OKAY, might be wholly fabricated—but after seeing Ong Bak 2, I'm guessing it isn't. Ditching Prachya Pinkaew, the director of Ong Bak and The Protector, Jaa elected to direct Ong Bak 2 himself, and the production didn't go well: An overwhelmed Jaa reportedly took long breaks from the set, dabbled with black magic (!), showed up to direct dressed as a shaman (!!), repeatedly went over budget, possibly fell in with the Thai mafia (!!!), and eventually broke down sobbing on national television (!!!!). Trust me: This all makes a lot more sense after watching Ong Bak 2, a film that was clearly made by an insane person.
Having absolutely nothing to do with the original, Ong Bak 2 is a humorless epic splattered with pixels of CG blood and shot almost entirely in slooooow motion. The baffling story follows Tien (Jaa), who as a child was sold into slavery and made to fight alligators (!!!!!); rescued by a "king of bandits," Tien alternately seeks revenge and receives wise counsel. ("Power is terrifying," one mentor observes, "but power abusers are more terrifying.") As for the action, Jaa can do it, but he can't shoot it: Shit here feels disorienting and jarring, with little of the clarity that, in Ong Bak and The Protector, showed off Jaa's prodigious ass-kicking skills.
That said, for all its dreary disappointment, there is a scene in which Jaa and a ninja fight WHILE ON TOP OF AN ELEPHANT. So there's that, I guess.