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'Ong Bak 2': In Ancient Thailand, A Bang-Up Fight

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'Ong Bak 2': In Ancient Thailand, A Bang-Up Fight

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'Ong Bak 2': In Ancient Thailand, A Bang-Up Fight

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

Even if you missed the store openings, you have a chance to catch a movie opening this weekend.

Film critic Kenneth Turan would like to suggest a martial arts offering: "Ong Bak 2."

KENNETH TURAN: Bruce Lee is dead; Jackie Chan and Jet Li are slowing down; but the world of martial arts never sleeps. It's Tony Jaa who's keeping everyone awake these days. He's Thailand's biggest action hero, and he returns to inflict more damage in "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning."

Now, you might think that this film has some connection to the original "Ong Bak" of a few years back, but you would be wrong. The only thing that links these two pictures is its star, who's such a big deal in the action world that the Hollywood Reporter called "Ong Bak 2" arguably the most anticipated Thai movie ever.

It was especially anticipated because Jaa disappeared for a time during shooting. Not to worry: He re-emerged after a bout of self-described meditation to say he was A-OK and ready for renewed combat.

The plot here is rudimentary at best. It begins with a teenage boy on the run in the year 1431. He ends up in a slave market, where he butts heads with tattooed evildoers and goes one-on-one with an enormous crocodile.

(Soundbite of movie, "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning")

TURAN: This catches the eye of a bandit king, who decides to train the lad in martial arts.

(Soundbite of movie, "Ong Bak 2: The Beginning")

TURAN: Clearly, it's not the story but Tony Jaa's graceful moves that are the biggest attraction in "Ong Bak 2." This time around, his co-conspirators are a group of elephants.

(Soundbite of elephant)

TURAN: Seeing him leaping nimbly along the backs of a thundering herd of the beasts is impressive. Definitely don't try this at home, even if there are elephants in your backyard.

The producers claim "Ong Bak 2" features kung fu, judo, several kinds of Thai boxing and something completely new — a combination of Thai dancing and martial arts called natayuth, which Jaa invented just for this movie. No wonder taking time off to mediate seemed like a good idea.

INSKEEP: Kenneth Turan review movies for MORNING EDITION and the Los Angeles Times. You can find more movie reviews at NPR.org, including one of the new biopic about Amelia Earhart.

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