We bring you this week's edition of Asian Cinema Scene live from Austin, Texas. SXSW is not particularly known for the Asian films it programs, but I've been able to see one high-profile action flick and one intriguing, arthouse-style documentary.
Ong Bak 2
As I've previously noted, the directorial debut of martial artist supreme Tony Jaa features numerous insanely awesome fight scenes. Jaa explodes in every direction, his arms and legs delivering lethal blows as he lays waste to a variety of opponents, employing all manner of martial arts, straight fighting skills, and amazing dexterity with a variety of bladed weapons.
His character, Tian, is much darker than the ones he's played in Ong Bak and The Protector. Tian witnessed the murder of his parents in front of his eyes, turning him from a sweet child into a revenge-bent killing machine. Narrative clarity is not a strong suit for the film, but did anyone expect that it would be? The period setting justifies the sometimes lumbering pace, and Ong Bak 3 should (hopefully) answer any lingering plot questions. Magnolia Pictures' Magnet Releasing acquired US distribution rights, and a theatrical release of some kind has been promised.
Our friend Wise Kwai, Thailand-based writer and reviewer, provided a bemused, comprehensive roundup of Twitter talk ("awesome was used a lot") and notes that some "were more impressed with the winner of the beer-chug contest held before the film." He also linked to several full-bore reviews, including this great pull-quote from Blake at Cinema is Dope: "Puts [Jaa] up there with the likes of Bruce Lee ... [the film's] Stanley Kubrick-like approach to constructing action with full lush epic and grandiose details and colors and attention to every aspect of its construction will lead this film to be discussed for a damn long time."