A sort of comeback vehicle for Tony Jaa after the less than warm reception to the two Ong Bak sequels, Warrior King 2 (or Tom Yum Goong 2 or The Protector 2 depending on where you live!) isn’t quite the return to form one may have been hoping for. Not that mister Jaa doesn’t try as he infuses the film with energy throughout and certainly has his fair share of scraps and stunt filled shenanigans but thanks to the ridiculous idea of making this 3D (stop with the 3D, just stop!) and far too much reliance on CGI, Warrior King 2 is a lukewarm affair punctuated by a couple of standout fight sequences. The plot is almost identical to the first Warrior King: Jaa plays Kham who loves his elephant Khon, who gets kidnapped by some nefarious types leading Kham to go on a quest to rescue his beloved pet and kick as much ass as possible. So, much like the first movie then. There are various other subplots including RZA’s evil gangster who wants to lure Kham into his evil fighting tournament ring (or something!) and Raging Phoenix star Jeeja Yanin also gets roped into the quest when she believes Kham has murdered her beloved uncle but it all gets so convoluted and really just leads to everyone trying to rescue the damn elephant come the finale.
Not that those of us who love action/martial arts movies always expect a complex narrative but when a lot of the big action scenes are handled somewhat clumsily and rely on too much subpar CGI and 3D gimmicks, well one can’t help but feel disappointed. Now the original Warrior King certainly suffered from a muddled narrative and all kinds of cheesiness but was bolstered by some incredible set-pieces, all performed for real, that rank among some of Jaa’s best. While Warrior King 2 is certainly crammed with action, nothing comes close to the likes of Jaa vs. Lateef Crowder or Jaa vs a bajillion goons in black suits or the incredible one take fight scene that ended with Jaa vs. Johnny Nguyen that were all featured in the original. Instead this time, and for a good 40 minutes, we get Jaa running around looking lost, a few quick scraps here and there and a ridiculously epic motorcycle confrontation/car chase/bridge jump sequence that is so stuffed with naff CGI, awful 3D gimmicks and obvious green screen you do begin to wonder if it will ever end and Jaa will just simply fight someone one-on-one. Sure it’s pretty inventive with part of the chase taking place over the top of buildings and there is a very cool POV jump and climb shot from one building to another but unfortunately the action (despite some stellar stunt work) just feels truncated and over reliant on 3D tricks and obvious wire-work. Yanin, who is also an incredible screen fighter (check out Chocolate and Raging Phoenix for proof) is also disappointingly wasted, and one begins to wonder if the fight magic will ever happen. Then Marrese Crump shows up.
Proving more than a worthy adversary for Jaa, Crump injects some fresh air and impressive combat skills into his fight scenes. Quick and acrobatic, Crump is a marvel to watch and the filmmakers use him wisely featuring his character in several scenes of martial arts combat. In addition, the last 30 minutes or so is jammed packed with action and fight insaneness and there are several scenes/sections that smack of action greatness but everything else unfortunately feels a little tired. See it for the Jaa vs. Crump fight scenes and add another half star if you are more tolerant of 3D CGI gimmickry.
Warrior King 2 will be released on the 1st of September on DVD and Blu Ray in the UK by Entertainment One and extras include cast and crew interviews and a neat behind the scenes feature.
Review by Andrew Skeates