At least we now know the slim strand that connects Ong Bak I with Ong Bak II & III: the Buddha statue that has its head stolen in part one is actually made in part three. Well, at least the filmmakers (as in Tony Jaa & Panna Rittikrai) managed to interconnect the flicks to each other somehow, however tangently... But other than that, the less said about part three, probably the better. As abruptly and out of the blue as Ong Bak II ended, it was at least an exciting, enthralling and memorable film; with the exception of the first ten minutes, Ong Bak III is anything but exciting, enthralling and memorable, and very much feels and plays like, well, a disjointed religious tract and a stretched storyline.
If you happened to read the review to Ong Bak II here at A Wasted Life, then you know that we found the flick almost as good as a blowjob. But we also pointed out that the movie felt like a wanna-be epic that ran out of time and thus ended out of the blue. Ong Bak III, on the other hand, feels like a half-hour's worth of narrative that had to be stretched to fit the what seems like a ten-hour running time (in fact, it is only around two hours long – which is still about 1.5 hours too much).
Ong Bak III starts up more-or-less where Ong Bak II ends. Tien (Tony Jaa) is now a prisoner of the evil Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrachang of 13: Game of Death [2006 / trailer]), who first has him beaten to pulp and then has every bone in his body broken. It is an intensely painful episode that is perhaps the most successful segment of the film, but nonetheless not at all enjoyable to watch. Before Tien can be put to death, however, a dues ex machina in the form of a messenger arrives with a pardon from the King and rides off with the near-dead Tien. Thereafter, for the rest of the film, most of the time when Tien shows up it is to lie around half-dead, feel miserable as a cripple, hug trees, straighten his bones and karma, and learn to dance before, finally, he takes part in the mandatory showdown. Almost any scene in which he is in up until the end is drawn out and numbingly dull. In-between, realizing that an action film needs some action, the filmmakers introduce the subplot of how Lord Rajasena is first slowly driven crazy by bad, karma-born nightmares and then deposed by one of his supernaturally evil henchmen, Bhuti Sangkha (Dan Chupong of Born to Fight / Kerd ma lui [1984 / Thai trailer], Dynamite Warrior / Khon fai bin [2006 / trailer], Muay Thai Giant / Somtum [2008 / trailer] and The Tsunami Warrior / Puen yai jon salad [2008 / Thai trailer]). More padding follows, and then the film finally ends peachy keen with happy, good Buddhists meditating in front of their statue, Ong Bak.
Ong Bak III suffers dreadfully due to the fact that the filmmakers seem to forget that they are making an action film and not a Buddhist tract. The occasional mondo highlight like a bodiless head lying in the dirt sputtering out curses or the cool nightmare sequences offer brief seconds of respite, but they do not make the film pass any quicker. The fight scenes of the subplot might be well staged, but they nevertheless come across as padding – as does 90% of the film. And as for the big showdown, it is so mind-bogglingly "what-the-fuck?!?" in such a bad way that the viewer really feels as if they're having the piss taken out of them. Normally in films like this the oft-laughable acting and bad wigs adds an endearing aspect, but that is not the case here, because when added to the non-existent drama and snail's pace narrative, it is all simply too much bad and not enough fun.
Ong Bak III is not just a disaster, it truly sucks feces. Imagine a Buddhist Jack Chick pamphlet with as many pages as Moby Dick and you can well imagine what this film feels like. Do you really want to do that to yourself?