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Tom-Yum-Goong 2: Improving, Not Ground-Breaking
  By Sorradithep Supachanya / 26 October 2013
 

 


Tom-Yum-Goong 2 (stylized as TYG2), the third collaboration by director Prachya Pinkaew, fight choreographer Panna Rittikrai, and martial arts superstar Tony Jaa, raises the bar for Thai action films to yet another level, but not in the way you would expect.

In a sharp contrast to its prequel, TYG2s narrative actually drives its actions. The script, written by veteran screenwriter Eakasit Thairaat (13Beloved; Body), provides some logics to how the plot progresses. While the protagonist Kham (Tony Jaa) once again sees his beloved elephant kidnapped, this time there is a valid reason for that crime. What follows is a story of greed, revenge, and betrayal amid an intricately tangled web of international terrorism and underground mercenaries headed by Wu-Tang Clans RZA.

 


The attempt to levitate the narrative above the genres stereotypically videogame-like simplicity is laudable, even though not all aspects of the plot make perfect sense. Some characters, like Jeeja Yanin (Chocolate; Raging Phoenix) as Khams unlikely sidekick and Rhatha Phongam (Only God Forgives) as the femme fatale assassin, seem to have been written to fit the casting, not the other way around.

Death-defying stunts remain abundant and impressive, particular in the scenes involving hanging by a rope over an 80-meter-high suspension bridge, chasing around an abandoned shipyard, and fighting in a tight room with walls of fire. The final combat with the archenemy, however, features too many characters, which diminishes what could have been Jaas ultimate showdown. The scene becomes chaotic and anti-climatic for its grandeur premise.

The 3D works both for and against the film. The technology allows more things to get excitedly thrown, splashed, punched, and kicked at the audience. But the fast actions and swift camera movements mean that the 3Ds already dizzying quality could become nauseating for some viewers.

 


Jaa, now 37 years old, has visibly aged. His kicks and punches are not as strong, as fast, as high, or as graceful as in his earlier movies and especially in comparison to his younger co-stars Marrese Crump and Jeeja Yanin. But he makes up for it with displaying a wider range of emotions in this movie. He seems ready to make his Hollywood debut in the next installment of the Fast & Furious series.

Despite these strong points, the early public sentiment surrounding TYG2 seems a tad bit tepid. But consider this: the trio Prachya-Panna-Jaas first two films Ong Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong (released in North America as The Protector and in the UK as The Warrior King) broke new grounds for Thai cinema and revolutionized its cinematic landscape. How do you keep the audience excited given such a soaring expectation and towering achievement? That is a tough question which even the latest iPhone and Pixar animations are facing.

While TYG2 is not as ground-breaking as its predecessors, all in all it remains an exhilarating, adrenaline-pumping martial arts flick that does what it sets out to do.


   

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