Fulvue Drive-In.com
Current Reviews
In Stores Soon
In Stores Now
DVD Reviews, SACD Reviews Essays Interviews Contact Us Meet the Staff
An Explanation of Our Rating System Search  
Category:    Home > Reviews > Martial Arts Cycle > Comedy > Fantasy > Ong Bak – The Thai Warrior (2003/Fox Blu-ray) + Ong Bak 2 – The Beginning (2008/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)

Ong Bak – The Thai Warrior (2003/Fox Blu-ray) + Ong Bak 2 – The Beginning (2008/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)


Picture: C+/B-     Sound: B-/B     Extras: C     Films: C+/C-



Tony Jaa is the best cinematic martial arts figure since Jet Li, but like Li, he has not been able to find films worthy of his talent.  After a few films behind and in front of the camera, he found himself in the moderately budgeted hit Ong Bak (2003) showing his physicality beyond just fighting and a star was born.  Unfortunately, despite a few more films like The Protector (2005), things did not take off as they should have, so he recently made Ong Bak 2 (2008) and it is those two films in what is almost a franchise that are now out on Blu-ray from two different companies.


I say almost because the two take place in different time periods and Jaa is almost playing the same character, but then he is not.  The 2003 film has him as a peaceful young religious type who wants to be left alone, but the world he lives in is not always pretty, has its share of gangsters and then there are those who want to make money off of fighting.  It is a simple formula film that only works when Jaa is on screen (more than anyone else) and the storyline prevents more fights.  Still, he is a standout as Ting.


The sequel is set a few centuries ago where he plays Tien, so it is implied that this is a very distant relative in The Beginning (I guess there was no one like him before these centuries?) in a bizarre film that does not quite know what it wants to be.  Is it a Kurosawa film, Apocalypto or a fantasy-genre film?  The fact that the great outdoor locations have been digitally (and otherwise) manipulated and color-gutted too often seems to suggest a desire to be like 300, a video game or anything else hip that will fit the digital age, but the result is a sort of Revenge Western without the West that never works and actually holds back Jaa.  Though ambitious, it has next to no connection with the first film save Jaa and Director Panna Rittikmrai, who shares directing with Jaa this time out and Magnolia picked it up.


There are fights, but costumes and other situations restrict things this time.  Unfortunately, neither takes advantage of his skills to the fullest extent and though Jaa may be trying to grow Thai cinema, holding out alone will not do this.  They need some new ideas, different genres and find a way to increase the action in ways that make narrative sense.  He is a worth successor to Bruce Lee (one of very, very few) and should not let that opportunity go by.  Doing clichéd work, no matter how much you increase the budget, will not help.  If you have not seen Jaa in action, either film will do, though the first is more naturalistic and the better choice to see him at his best.


The 1080p 1.85 X 1 AVC @ 18 MBPS digital High Definition image on the first film shows its age often and does not look good too often due to the age of the print.  The transfer is about as good as it is going to get, but a better print is needed down the line.  The low-budget may hold back the look, but some of this can be fixed.  Despite being a more expensive Super 35mm shoot, the 1080p 2.35 X 1 digital High Definition image on the barely-a-sequel-sequel is really not that much better thanks to endless manipulation and stylization that has cut into the depth, definition and detail of what was likely a fine shoot originally before digitization.


The DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix on the first film does show its age despite the fact that it was originally a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX release, but the problem is in the location audio.  The second film also has DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) lossless 5.1 mix and was originally a Dolby Digital 5.1 EX release in theaters, but this sounds better, though not by as much as expected.  The soundfield sounds restricted and the sound effects do not always work.


Extras on both feature behind the scenes footage with Jaa in training and making the respective films, while the first film only adds a Music Video and the second has six featurettes altogether and adds the HDNet episode on the film, an alternate cut of the film, Cast/Crew Interviews, the U.S. Trailer, the International Trailer and exclusive footage of the upcoming Ong Bak 3.


We’ll see if that works better.



-   Nicholas Sheffo


 Copyright © MMIII through MMX fulvuedrive-in.com