Ong Bak – The Thai Warrior (2003/Fox Blu-ray) + Ong Bak 2 – The Beginning (2008/Magnolia/MagNet Blu-ray)
C+/B- Sound: B-/B Extras: C Films: C+/C-
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
if that works better.
- Nicholas Sheffo