Film review: Requisite thrills in Tom Yum Goong sequel

Andrew Sun

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 10:12pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 January, 2014, 10:12pm

Tom Yum Goong 2
Starring: Tony Jaa, RZA, Mum Jokmok
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Category: IIB (Thai)

Rating: 3/5


Nothing comes between a man and his love for an elephant. Thai action hero Tony Jaa returns in a sequel about as hot and spicy as 2005's original Tom Yum Goong (renamed in many territories as The Protector). And the same team responsible for most of Jaa's stunts and film fights since Ong Bak are here, including director Prachya Pinkaew and action choreographer Panna Rittikrai.

Reprising the role of Kham, a reluctant fighter from the countryside, Jaa is as stoic as ever. He moves with ease and luckily, facial expression and range are not what his audience wants.

Tom Yum Goong 2 (aka TYG2) overcomes a clumsy, complicated set-up and unimpressive 3-D to deliver the requisite thrills. An unscrupulous businessman wants to buy Kham's beloved elephant Khon. The descendant of an ancient elephant-keeping family refuses to sell, so the bad guy's henchman kidnaps the elephant. When Kham goes off in pursuit he finds the businessman dead in his Bangkok home.

Big baddie LC is played by Wu Tang Clan rapper turned B-genre film director RZA, gettin' his villain groove on. He organises underground fighting rings and is trying to sabotage a peace treaty in a fictitious civil-war-torn East Asian country.

None of it matters except to keep Kham on the run from his many pursuers. Some are on motorbikes, others are master Muay Thai fighters, there are even two young schoolgirls with furious kicks and punches.

Thai comic Mum Jokmok (aka Petchtai Wongkamlao), who is in all of Jaa's films, also returns as Kham's ally, Sergeant Mark. He gets to toss one-liners such as when Kham suggests the kidnapped animal "is my brother", his Interpol agent character replies, "so your father slept with an elephant?"

Disappointingly, female action colleague Jija Yanin ( Chocolate) is not given much to do. At least it's less sexist than forcing model Ratha Pho-ngam to don a barely there costume copied from Milla Jovovich's white straps outfit from The Fifth Element and then asking her to fight in it.

Part of Jaa's appeal has always been that he performs crazy stunts without a safety net. In one Tom Yum Goong 2 innovation, he jumps from a rooftop to a balcony on another building, filmed using a POV cam on his head.

And after 90 minutes of Jaa kicking people around, his feet are set on fire for a confrontation that is comical, ludicrous and absolutely entertaining.

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Tom Yum Goong 2 opens on January 9