Whither Tony Jaa And TOM YUM GOONG 2?

Todd Brown, Founder and Editor
More than eight months after principal photography began, the questions are starting to pop up with increasing regularity: Where is Tony Jaa's Tom Yum Goong 2? And why has not a single scrap of footage or even any still images been released yet? The answer, in short, is get ready to wait a while longer. The originally planned 2012 release date? Not going to happen. No chance.

For those unfamiliar with the back story, there is quite a lot riding on this film both for Jaa and production house Sahamongkol Film. Jaa's directorial debut, Ong Bak 2, was an utter disaster behind the scenes to the degree that control of the production was taken away from the star deep into production and handed to Panna Rittikrai with the script re-written and the film split into two parts in a desperate attempt to salvage the costs of a production that had run horribly over schedule and over budget. It didn't work. Ong Bak 2 and 3 were financial as well as critical failures with Jaa - at one point the shining star not only of Sahamongkol's stable but of the Thai industry as a whole - left with his reputation in absolute tatters thanks to his on-set meltdown and literally months-long disappearance in the middle of production.

But Jaa was a huge star and money maker for Sahamongkol once and maybe he could be again. And so when the studio saw an opportunity to slip one final Jaa star vehicle in before the end of his long term contract with the studio they jumped at it, canceling - or at least indefinitely postponing - the already announced production of Jija Yanin's Chocolate 2 to launch Tom Yum Goong 2 - a sequel to Jaa's biggest hit - instead.

The plan - sensibly - was to offer lots of supports. Ong Bak and Tom Yum Goong director Prachya Pinkaew was back at the controls with Jaa's mentor Panna Rittikrai handling the fight choreography. And backing Jaa up on screen was the full Sahamongkol stable of screen fighters with Dan Chupong, Jija Yanin and Kazu Tang all in the cast. Production began in August with a 2012 release planned and then ... nothing.

The flooding that hit Thailand in late 2011 has certainly had an impact but, wait, things are about to get weird in Jaa-land again.

Thailand's The Nation newspaper has announced - and published a copy of the invite to back it up - that Tony Jaa is getting married to his girlfriend of three years. Which is great. Good for him. Except he's doing it on May 3rd. In the middle of production of Tom Yum Goong 2. Further, they report - as though this is a good thing, weirdly - that the film is only 40% of the way through production at present. Yes, you read that correctly: More than eight months since photography began less than half of Tom Yum Goong 2 is in the can, meaning the film is now radically behind schedule and, therefore, over budget. Even if they race through the remaining production there is virtually no chance that the film will be through post production on time to release in 2012. Mid 2013 is now looking far more likely and, should they maintain the current snail's pace on production that would extend the shooting out for another full year.

The truly shocking thing here, though is this: What kind of star steps away from a production already badly over schedule for any reason short of a death? This film could literally be Jaa's last kick at it in Thailand, should it fail, and the lack of focus and dedication to making it work is simply staggering. His head, clearly, is not in the filming. To be this badly behind already suggests that even beyond the problems caused by the floods this is a film that was rushed into production before it was ready. To run this long and accomplish this little says clearly that the advance preparation was simply not done or, alternately, that things simply aren't working on set and are needing to be changed as they go. Throw in a lead actor planning a wedding when he should be training and it's not a pretty picture ...
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