The Protector 2, Tom Yum Goong 2, Warrior King 2 (2013)
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Written by: Eakasit Thairatana
Starring: JeeJa Yanin, Marrese Crump, Petchtai Wongkamlao, RZA, Tony Jaa, Yayaying Rhatha Phongam
WARRIOR KING 2 (2013)
Directed by Prachya Pinkaew
Thai and English language with subtitles
The martial arts superstar that is Tony Jaa is back with Warrior King 2, or also known to you and I as The Protector 2 and Tom Yum Goong 2. After absolutely loving Tom Yum Goong, even to the point of giving it a rare 5 star rating, I had high hopes for the sequel and I wasn’t the only one. The problem with sequels is that they rarely better the original and often fall short. Well folks, I’m afraid to say that Warrior King 2 doesn’t just fall short, it has actually become a farce.
What I loved about Warrior King was that it was a small, simple, balls-the-wall, unadulterated action production. It was made for the Eastern market and was created, like Ong Bak, to their taste. Rated a certificate 18, it gave us glorious action set pieces, namely that one take staircase scene, as well as Jaa taking on an entire room of bad guys at the finale, with the filmmakers showing us the combat scenes in their entirety. It had a moving storyline that made me weep like the girl that I am, all the action you could handle and it pulled no punches. Everything that was great about Warrior King has been stripped away for the sequel. Warrior King 2 is an incoherant, cheap, CGI and wire ridden mess than has ditched its Eastern appeal and adopted a Western stance with wooden performances, making it nothing more than a tacky B-movie. Harsh? Unfortunately yes, but only because I loved the first one so much do I feel so heartbroken with this effort, especially as Warrior King 2 is directed by the same man responsible for the terrific original and Ong Bak.
The plot, of what I could make out, of Warrior King 2 involves civil unrest between separatists and the government of Katana, an underground fight club run by LC (played by RZA of Wu Tang Clan) who’s looking to find the no 1 fighter, twin sisters looking for revenge against the murderer of their uncle, and the kidnapping of Kham’s elephant and surrogate brother, Korn. The unrest in Katana takes a backseat for the majority of the film, whilst the rest of the focus is on the fight club who have something to do with the kidnapping of Kham’s elephant. Even recurring character, the comical Sergeant Mark can’t believe that the elephant has been stolen again. It’s as if his character speaks for the audience, as it is so obvious that a group of men trying their best to buy the elephant at the beginning of the film had no intention of leaving without it, yet Kham seems to switch off his brain and give them the easiest opportunity ever for the theft of the huge animal. When Kham (Tony Jaa) goes looking for Korn, he finds his suspect dead at home, which is when the suspect’s two nieces walk in and automatically assume that Kham is his murderer. Thus, the twin girls set about taking their revenge on Kham, which leads all three into the hands of LC and his assassins.
Regardless of the messy plot, it’s the quality of the martial arts and the production which is most disappointing. Warrior King was so slick, it’s locations and shots were perfect and it prided itself on doing everything as real as possible. It had authenticity in the way it was shot, which meant we believed it as an audience. Warrior King 2, however, has gone in the opposite direction. In this movie, there are many unrealistic scenes, one of the most memorable being shot on a rooftop with motorbikes (a complete snorefest) and another cringeworthy scene involving Kham, an assassin known only as 02 and a train. The filmmakers have ditched realism and opted for over the top theatrics that look silly compared with the realistic feats of athleticism which Tony Jaa performed in the previous movie. Wire work combined with tacky, poor CGI completely turns off viewers. The fighting is no better, with Jaa hardly busting out any impressive combinations or techniques and fighting weak opponents who never really feel a threat to Jaa’s character. When his few interesting (by Warrior King 2 standards) hand-to-hand fight scenes do occur, the camera shots and editing are so choppy that the viewer doesn’t get to see the full action in its glory. This type of filmmaking is mostly employed by Hollywood and Western movies who’s leading man isn’t very skilled, and I’m shocked that the filmmakers of Warrior King 2 have resorted to this when they once again have the amazing talents of Tony Jaa as the lead.
Speaking of performances, the quality of the actors goes from mediocre to poor. Tony Jaa is given very little to work with script wise, and it’s only Petchtai Wongkamlao as Sergeant Mark who’s character really shines from a verbal delivery point of view, and even then he is hardly used. The inclusion of RZA’s American fight club gangster LC feels out of place, as does the entire fight club, and the lack of charisma or conviction sticks out like a sore thumb. Nothing about the characters feels right and each of them feel as though they have been dropped in the film from other movies and mixed in together. In many ways, the plot feels like this also, leaving a mish-mash of personalities and plots that can never be taken seriously.
Bigger isn’t always better and in their quest for a more mainstream sequel, Warrior King 2 has lost all the charm of its predecessor. Matters aren’t made any better with the film having been shot in 3D, with obvious shots set up for this format that feel out of place and are cheesy to watch on standard DVD, which is the only format in which it has been released in Region 2.
Whilst it could be half acceptable as a low budget, B-movie action comedy if taken as a standalone film, the filmmakers of Warrior King 2 need to sit down and watch the magnificent first film again, and take a leaf out of Gareth Evan’s book when it comes to sequels as The Raid 2 perfectly demonstrates how a successor should be created.