Buzz was strong in 2003 among the kung-fu fan community for Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Although the production and film itself promised to be cheesy, the stunts performed in the film did not. With Tony Jaa, a martial arts master who was promising to rival Bruce Lee and Jackie Chan, in the lead, the film promised to be an action packed delight, with the “stunts” in the film being more than that as they were fully connecting martial arts moves that had to be seen to be believed.
When the head of his village’s sacred Buddha statue is stolen, simple country boy Ting (Tony Jaa) is sent to Bangkok to retrieve it. Raised by a monk who has trained him in Muay Thai, Ting has vowed to never use his lethal martial arts skills. But once he arrives in the big city, Ting is forced to fight. It’s non-stop action as Ting infiltrates Bangkok’s seedy underworld and takes on a series of lowlifes and criminals in his quest to obtain the sacred head.
There’s little about this film that isn’t a big waste of time. I love cheesy kung fu as much as the next guy (ok well maybe not—there are some real diehards out there), but the majority of this film is really quite a waste. There’s little plot and what of it there is ends up being expended in about 10 minutes. So what do we spend the other 78 minutes of the films run time on? Why…ridiculous and awesome fight scenes, of course!
It sucks when you go into a film expecting awesome stunt work and then you actually grow tired of it while watching it. I mean there’s no doubt in my mind that Tony Jaa is one of the most visually impressive martial arts actors in the medium, rivaling that of Jackie Chan even, but there’s really not even a moment to breathe with this film. Normally this is what you want, but this is really just freakin’ relentless in terms of violence. I don’t really want to put the film down because of that because it’s really enjoyable at first, but it really could’ve used a bit more diversity even if it was some kind of pointless romantic side plot or something. Anything would’ve worked, really, as you are never wanting to see more action because that’s all that ever crosses the screen to begin with.
I don’t have a wide array of Kung Fu movie knowledge in my repertoire so I don’t have anything to compare this one to. But there’s a heavy dosage of cheese and bad dialogue to fill you up and, like I said, the action is really just relentless. It’s also quite humorous that the entire time that Ting spends trying to retrieve a serene Buddha statue he’s smashing the crap out of everyone around him. So yeah, there’s no real way you can take this film seriously and it truly is just an excuse for Jaa to show off his skills…and that is really absolutely the only reason to watch this film. What he does is absolutely amazing, no doubt about that, and if you’re in the mood to have your jaw drop repeatedly for eighty-eight minutes, you’ll be quite entertained by this film. Just don’t expect anything else to happen during that time, as it’s all just non-stop.
Overall a recommended film just for the martial arts, but because there’s nothing else worthwhile to check out this gets downgraded to a Rental. Thankfully the sequel (or prequel, rather) to this that also has just arrived on Blu-ray is a bit better, although not by much.
This release kind of came out of nowhere as it’s not even on Fox’s release schedule for February. I guess they decided to pop this film on Blu-ray since Magnolia Pictures was releasing the prequel…although for Fox’s sake I wish they hadn’t as it kind of ruins their streak of fantastic A/V presentations on the format. The actual film itself arrives in a standard Eco Elite Blu-ray case with the same cover art as the DVD edition and nothing inside. Menus are simple and easy to navigate and the A/V transfer…well, it’s not good.
This film pretty much screams “low budget” with the visuals contained here. It’s murky, muddy, and quite frankly worse than an upscaled DVD. There’s little to no detail to be found in the picture and I was left scratching my head as to why Fox would even bother dishing this one out on Blu-ray. The DVD edition could’ve been passable I’m sure, but shoving this thing onto Blu-ray just made for a real mess. And it wasn’t even like they didn’t try—there’s even a blurb about the new transfer on the special features menu tab for this disc and how it came from “Deluxe Postproduction Toronto” from the original 35mm master. Maybe it was loaded with grain that they had to DNR scrub it to death, I don’t know but nothing here looks worthy of the format at all. Add to that washed out colors and questionable blacks and you have a very fast paced kung-fu flick with a very bad transfer.
Audio isn’t much better, as it tosses in a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix that rarely squeaks past the front channels. Both the original Thai and English dub are included and both focus heavily on the front speakers, with only the briefest of moments sliding into the surrounds. This audio mix again makes me wonder why they even bothered—I truly hope they didn’t invest too much into the master of this Blu-ray, as it really didn’t turn out well at all.
Extras are all ported over from the previous DVD release and include:
Music video featuring Tony Jaa (4:03, SD)
Making of the music video (7:14, SD)
The 8 movements of Muay Thai (1:43, SD)
Behind-the-scenes stunt footage (2:33, SD)
Tony Jaa performance at French screening (2:34, SD)
Promotional video featuring The RZA (1:00, SD)
All are in standard definition, as noted above. They’re all pretty brief little segments and hardly worth your time to check out. Overall if you own the DVD already, then you can Skip this Blu-ray. It really doesn’t offer anything that your current Blu-ray player can’t upscale from the original R1 DVD release.
Ong Bak: The Thai Warrior is now available on Blu-ray.