Pretty and gritty, but no
match for the original.
The Beginning had a few things going for it. To start with, it too starred Tony Jaa. Score. It had better production quality than the first installment—crisp, beautiful shots (looked fab even via Instant Watcher on our laptop), some smooth special effects, amazing costumes and sets. It also had some great combat sequences, especially the second-to-last fight scene, and two instances of the most creative uses of an elephant I've ever seen in any film.
What it lacked, however, was the charm of the original. The first film was wittier, spunkier, quirkier, more charismatic…simpler but undoubtedly awesomer. This one didn't feel like the same franchise at all. To be fair, the story was only very loosely tied with the original. Jaa plays a different character and the story is set centuries before the contemporary original, and you don't get exciting Bangkok as the story's backdrop. But it's called Ong Bak 2…I didn't follow how these were part of the same legacy. One is quest storytelling at its best, relying on clever stunts and a simple plot. The second a dark, gruesome, rather depressing saga, with far more gore. Everybody gets it in the throat in this movie, whereas the first Ong-Bak hardly had any casualties, and the baddies who did die did so by their own incompetence.
And for reasons unclear to me, I simply wasn't grabbed by this movie. The pacing managed to be sluggish, despite all the action and violence. However, I will leave you with a tiny taste of the aforementioned genius use of an elephant: