I knew there were going to be problems with Ong Bak 3, but I figured as long as there were some fights it couldn’t be all bad. So they turned a sequel into a trilogy. So Tony Jaa ran off into the woods. As long as he knees some people in the head I’d be happy. Unfortunately, the problems with Ong Bak 3 are palpable.

More after the jump...

Flashbacks open the film to catch audiences up with Tien’s (Jaa) story so far. You get to see the old elephant flips and knees to the head. There are actually a lot of flashbacks in the film, either to keep explaining the story or just as filler. Maybe you wouldn’t notice if you didn’t know the behind the scenes drama. You’d just think it was a part three with a lot of references to part two.

The first scene bodes well as Tien fights off his executioners. Then the filler picks up with Lord Rajasena (Sarunyoo Wongkrachang) having visions that he’s cursed. Then we meet Pim (Primrata Dejudom) and Mhen (Petchtai Wongkamlao) who recover Tien’s beaten body and nurse him back to health. The Crow Ghost (Dan Chupong) plagues Lord Rajasena and eventually terrorizes the kingdom in physical form.

It really feels like a Game of Death situation where they’re building a movie around existing footage of the star. Jaa probably shot more of this than Bruce Lee did of Game and he’s only absent, not dead, but there’s still a lot that feels like it’s padding out the running time.

The only part that even involves Tien is his rehabilitation. He spends a lot of time injured so Jaa doesn’t even walk, let alone fight. There’s some karma spirituality and a special recovery kata. Nothing new but nothing that would detract from a good fight movie. Although, the idea of a fighter practicing non-fighting against violent attackers is a bit tired.

Scenes like Tien’s kata dance feel like they’re longer than they would be if they’d had Jaa for the whole film. They didn’t, so they had to stretch out any scenes he was in by letting the takes run long and dragging out multiple angles. Maybe it reflects a new pacifist agenda for Jaa, but the film is really boring when it’s dramatic.

The finale is the real fight. Then you see the elephants and knees and everything. Tien’s new hand moves are not as impressive. The Crow Ghost has a good fight scene but it still feels like it’s the second best substitute for a fight Jaa didn’t film.

There’s some really terrible CGI, but I don’t watch Ong Bak for special effects. I watch it for the insane kick moves and there’s just not enough kicking in Ong Bak 3. The release may be a necessary evil to get the Thai choreographers working on new films again. If you’re like me you’ll have to give it a chance just to see, and then you’ll probably make the same conclusions as me.