Tom yum goong (Warrior King)

  • Prachya Pinkaew
  • 2005

Director Prachya Pinkaew and up and coming martial arts superstar Tony Jaa, join fists once again to bring you more of the same in Tom yum goong, the unofficial sequel to Ong-Bak (2003). This time Jaa plays Kham, a young fighter from Thailand who has been lifelong friends with two elephants, a mother and its calf. When smugglers selling endangered animals to the Australian black market kidnap the calf, killing the mother elephant and Kham’s father in the process, Kham is naturally pissed. He resolves to go to Australia and, with the help of a Thai born policeman (played by Petchtai Wongkamlao, Jaa’s bumbling sidekick in Ong-Bak), adminster his own brand of jutice to those responsible. And woe betide the legions that may stand in his way.

…Tom yum goong is spoken mostly in English

Tom yum goong is pretty much Ong-Bak all over again, with a few changes. As with its predecessor the acting, on almost all accounts, is awful, and this time we are also treated to a sloppy feast of Australian D-list actors as the action is taken overseas to Sydney, no doubt a clever plea on the directors part to maximise a potentially huge audience that the original passed over because it was unfortunate enough to be subtitled. So, audiences that love their action but hate their subtitles will be pleased to know that Tom yum goong is spoken mostly in English, but unfortunately that won’t save them from the lacklustre storyline and appalling spoken delivery that isn’t helped by a Thai cast speaking broken english. But narrative and acting aren’t really the issue here, as the considerable success of Ong-Bak proved, so lets get to the point.

It rocks.

More money means bigger set pieces, bigger props and bigger bad guys. And bigger, in this case, is most certainly better. While Ong Bak was amazing for its time, it was Tony Jaa’s first feature in a main role and budget restrictions meant it had a somewhat grainy, unrefined feel to it. In Tom yun goong every stop has been pulled out to surpass its predecessor on all accounts. The camera shots are crystal clear and the increased budget has resulted in some very clever set design and extremely technical long shots that make the set pieces an absolute dream to watch. An amazingly choreographed 4 minute long steady-cam take that follows Tony up five flights of a building as he throws people of balconies, smashes them through doors, beats them against every prop imaginable and busts countless craniums alone makes Tom yum goong worth watching.

…awe inspiring Jackie Chan like acrobatics

And Jaa is also on top form. Astonishingly he looks bigger and now seems to almost effortlessly throw himself and other people around, adding a new intensity to the fight scenes. His acrobatic finesse and incredible strength give the action a perfect balance of awe inspiring Jackie Chan like acrobatics and bone breaking Bruce Lee brute force and all rendered even more impressive through the use of larger sets that make for some outrageous gymnastics and through Prachya Pinkaew’s slick, long-running and no doubt incredibly demanding shots. Jaa’s acting has improved immeasurably, to the point where it isn’t too bad, and his bigger frame allows for a fierce performance that makes much of his work in Ong-Bak look like child play.

Tom yum goong is Ong Bak but bigger and better. Whilst the story still sucks the excellent set pieces and fierce second half just shouldn’t be missed. Tom yum goong will undoubtedly be the most bad-ass action film this summer and the decision to use English dialogue should hook in much bigger crowds and finally give Tony Jaa the reputation he truly deserves as the next big thing. Another gargantuan fist to the face of the Hollywood action scene, Tom yum goong will rock your socks off.

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