The good news about veteran dramatist ML Bhandevanov "Mom Noi" Devakula's second and concluding chapter of his 'Jan Dara' adaptation is that it is better than the first. But we should probably qualify that statement - given how dull and tedious 'Jan Dara: The Beginning' was, there's probably no other way to go than up, so even though that's exactly where this finale goes, it's still a largely lacklustre affair from start to finish.
At the very least, this second-parter benefits from a much more focused and coherent plot. Whereas its predecessor set up way too many supporting relationships that ultimately go nowhere (one good example is Jan's romance with a Muslim girl from school which is too hastily wrapped up here),Mom Noi - who also wrote the screenplay from Usana Pleongtham's classic literature novel - keeps the narrative largely on Jan's own path of vengeance against his abusive stepfather Lord Wisanan (Sakarat Rithamrong).
Picking up from where the previous movie ended - i.e. with Jan (Mario Mauer) and Ken (Chaiyapon "New" Pupart) leaving the Wisanan household - Mom Noi spends the first half hour setting the stage for Jan's road of revenge. Taking up shelter in the rural province of Pijit where his vindictive grandmother (Radklao Amradit) lies dying, Jan discovers that Lord Wisanan is not his biological father; in fact, Wisanan's marriage to his mother was only one of convenience, which the former then abused to kick out Jan's grandmother from the family home.
It's little wonder that she makes Jan swear on her deathbed to claim his rightful place in the household; that opportunity comes along when his half-sister Kaew (Cho Nishino) becomes pregnant with child after having intercourse with Boon Lueng's (Ratha "Yaya Ying" Pho-Ngam) son Kajorn (Nat Dephasadin Na Ayudhya). Turns out Kajorn and Kaew are in fact brother and sister, which places Jan in an expedient position of entering into yet another marriage of convenience within the Wisanan family.
That's a lot to follow especially if you haven't yet seen the first movie, but it's no matter really - such an extended prologue is simply meant to engineer Jan's return with a fake moustache to show that he is older and much more conniving than before. Not only does he demand that Wisanan cede full control of the family business to him, Jan banishes his stepdad out of the main house and seduces his mistress Boon Lueng. If it isn't apparent enough, this is meant to be a tragic tale of Jan's own downfall as his hatred against his stepfather turns him into the man he has detested all his life.
There are certainly overtones of a Greek tragedy at play here, but as should be evident in the first movie, Mom Noi is too ham-fisted a director to spin this into anything more than a stage-bound soap opera. Every time tragedy strikes (and mind you, it does happen pretty often),the cinematography slows, the actors make a pained expression and the music swells to emphasise the weight of that moment. Yes, Mom Noi milks the most of every melodramatic turn in the novel, culminating in a tragic finish that unfortunately comes off laughable as one of the key characters commits suicide within the house to get back at Jan.
That cringe-worthy end is also a reflection of the terrible acting all round. Mario Mauer's star may have risen after the unprecedented success of the horror comedy 'Pee Mak', but his acting here is severely lacking in depth. One can literally see the strain on his face as he tries to convey his character's inner turmoil, and the only compliment we can offer is that it is at least still marginally more tolerable than his cloying act in the first movie. Yaya Ying's turn as Boon Lueng is no match for Hong Kong actress Christy Chung in the 2001 version, coming off bland and lacking in any real seductive edge. And the less said about Nishino and New the better, neither the Jap AV actress nor the young Thai actor belonging in anything more than high-school stage plays.
If we seem to have neglected talking about the sex scenes in the movie, that's because there's even fewer of those than in the 'Beginning'. Indeed, anyone who is here for the sex should just turn far far away - not only are these scenes artfully filmed in soft lighting to obscure any real ('erm') details you might want to see, they are utter non- events that are over even before getting to any meaningful climax. Our advice? You're better off watching Chung's version or even just some free porn clip on the Internet.
Like we said, if you compare the relative merits of the first and second-parter, then this finale is certainly the better half. Yet that really isn't saying a lot, and when it is over and done, this ponderous four-hour adaptation still marks one of the lowest points of the Thai film industry we've witnessed in recent years. Whether or not you're here for the sex, you'll walk away the same - limp, unfulfilled and frustrated.