REVIEW: Tom Yum Goong 2 (2013)

Tony Jaa’s elephant gets kidnapped again, and so he goes on another adventure to rescue his damsel-in-distress.


By Raymond Arcega
Last updated on

Tom Yum Goong 2

Original title: ต้มยำกุ้ง 2
Year: 2013
Country: Thailand
Language: Thai, English
Genre: Martial Arts
Director: Prachya Pinkaew

Kham (Tony Jaa) is living a somewhat peaceful life at home years after he rescued his pet elephant Khon from poachers in Sydney. He now spends his days teaching village kids martial arts.

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However, he finds Kohn once again taken by smugglers. After tracking the smugglers to their headquarters, Kham doesn’t find Kohn, but instead finds the gang’s boss murdered. The boss’s nieces see Kham with their uncle’s dead body and immediately think he is the culprit.

Now on the run from the two neices (Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda and Theerada Kittiseriprasert) both deadly assassins, and the police, Kham reunites with Sergeant Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao), who helped find Kohn in Sydney all those years ago. Mark tells Kham that he is visiting the country as part of Interpol to help intercept any terrorist activities that might derail a peace conference between separatist and government factions of the country of Katana, which is happening in Thailand.

There are two questions that must be in many fans’ minds regarding Tom Yum Goong 2. The first of which has to be “Really? The elephant, again? Really?”

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The second has to be “Okay, well…does it live up to the first film?”

While we can only make guesses as to why the role of damsel in distress has been taken up by an elephant a second time, we can at least try to answer the second question.

The first Tom Yum Goong was an epic martial arts film, and Tony Jaa’s follow-up to his breakthrough role in Ong Bak. There are many things that made the first Tom Yum Goong a milestone in the martial arts genre of film.

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It featured new style of Muay Thai fashioned by Tony Jaa himself, mimicking the movements of an elephant’s trunk. It showcased awesome cross-style fight scenes between Tony Jaa’s Muay Thai and practitioners of Capoeira, Wushu, and pro wrestling. It featured a long one-cut sequence with Tony Jaa climbing many floors of the villain’s headquarters, fighting off hordes of bad guys along the way. The list can go on.

Needless to say, this sequel had a lot of living up to do. But honestly, whether or not it has lived up to its predecessor all depends on the viewer’s willingness to forgive the sequel’s preference of special effects over choreography.

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Tom Yum Goong 2 starts us off in familiar territory, with Tony Jaa teaching his elephant trunk-inspired Muay Thai style to village kids, when his elephant Kohn gets kidnapped. As a matter of fact, from that point, the story is almost a cut-and-paste of the first film; Kahm raids the enemy headquarters, only to find that Kohn has been taken elsewhere. Kahm must follow the trail of bread crumbs to locate and rescue his brother from another mother.

While we won’t talk about the lack of creativity in Tom Yum Goong 2‘s story, the biggest thing that any fan would look forward to in a martial arts film is the fight choreography. Especially in a Tony Jaa film, because the stuff he can do is phenomenal.

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However, the choreography featured in Tom Yum Goong 2 feels to be one the slowest in anything Jaa has done, outspeeding only that in 2015’s Skin Trade. Quicker, and overall more complex choreography could definitely be found in any other film he has done prior. While the choreography itself isn’t disappointing for a genre film, for a Tony Jaa one it was.

This could be due to a number of things. Tony Jaa could be out of practice because of his time of service as a Buddhist monk (as much as no fan would like to think). It could also be the fighters that were paired with Tony Jaa (particularly Marrese Crump, as talented as he is) just weren’t fast enough to keep up with him.

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As hinted earlier, there is a reliance – perhaps an over-reliance – of special effects, being filmed for 3D. With slow-motion, CG-generated flying objects, and obvious use of the green screen, it felt like the concentration of making the film appeal in 3D took away from the quality of the choreography.

Adding to the seemingly lowered quality of the choreography is the film’s effort in trying to convince the viewers that RZA is a formidable martial artist who can go toes with Jaa. RZA, though not bad in his role as the film’s main antagonist, unfortunately made the choreography drag even more with his limited vocabulary of moves and his inability to, basically, keep up with our Muay Thai hero.

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But perhaps a bigger disappointment in Tom Yum Goong 2 is the underuse of Yanin “Jeeja” Vismistananda, who made her breakthrough in the 2008 film Chocolate. The collaboration between Jaa and Jeeja seemed to be a dream that every fan was waiting for.

However, her character barely had any lines of dialog, and seemingly had a very small part in the overall story. Maybe it’s just my bias as a big Jeeja fan talking, but Tom Yum Goong 2 definitely could have utilized more of her.

Tom Yum Goong 2 was overshadowed by everything Tony Jaa has put out before it. Fans of Jaa’s earlier films would have as much fun watching this as they did Skin Trade, watching recycled material that has been given a small facelift. But perhaps genre fans with no expectations will have a different viewing experience. They might be treated to a fun filled blockbuster. After all, they don’t have the luxury of remembering the first time the elephant was kidnapped.


Watch this film…

…if you love seeing heroes rescue animals who get kidnapped again and again.


About the Author

Raymond Arcega

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