"Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior" boasts that it uses no visual effects and put to use no wirework or stunt doubles. Alone, that certainly makes for a refreshing and often fascinating action picture. The film, which was an enormous hit overseas, didn't make quite the same impact here, but I'm sure that action fans will try and find this title on video after hearing all the buzz surrounding it and its star, Tony Jaa.
The film doesn't exactly offer a rich plot, using the thin story as a launching pad for exceptional, well-choreographed action sequences. The story involves the head of the sacred statue Ong-Bak being taken from a small village. It's up to Ting (Tony Jaa) to head to Bangkok and get the statue back from a crime lord. If he doesn't, the village believes that they will suffer.
When Ting arrives in the city, he meets up with Hum Lae (Petchtai Wongkamlao), who he believes could help him find the statue. Hum Lae isn't interested, until he sees Ting's fighting skills, and believes that he could be quite rich from shuttling Ting around the city's fighting circuit. The two have an uneasy alliance as they search the city for the one responsible for the theft.
Again the film's main draw are the action sequences - and not only the bigger brawls, but other moments like the one where Ting literally jumps up and walks over a crowd of attackers. The only problem is that we are often shown the action not once, but twice or even three times. Obviously, Jaa's skills are remarkable, but it was possible to appreciate them the first time.
The other issue is that the movie starts to come to a halt when the action stops, as the story itself really didn't keep my attention all that well. The performances aren't bad, however, and Jaa is certainly a talent to watch out for.
Note: I'm not aware what's missing, but this 105-minute presentation is apparently edited from the uncut international version.
VIDEO: "Ong-Bak" is presented in 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen by Fox. The presentation quality is just fair, as some noticable problems occur at times throughout the show. Sharpness and detail are just average, as the picture often appeared somewhat crisp, but some scenes (especially a few darker ones) appeared noticably softer by comparison.
Problems included several instances of minor-to-mild edge enhancement appearing, as well as instances of specks and dirt on the print used. The film's color palette is generally subdued, with the interior sequences often taking on a rather strong brown tone that I'm not sure was the intentional look or not.
SOUND: The DVD includes a Thai Dolby Digital 5.1 presentation (w/English subtitles) and a Dolby 2.0 English dubbed track. Obviously, the English dubbed presentation is not the optimal way to watch the picture; while this wasn't as bad as most dubbed tracks, it was still pretty unintentionally goofy at times. The Thai track did deliver the basics fairly well, as the film's score, dialogue and sound effects came through clearly, for the most part.
EXTRAS: The first extra appears to be from a French premiere of the picture, and has Jaa and a series of stuntmen giving a fight performance on-stage. We then get a brief feature on the different movements of the Muay Thai style. Also included is a French rap video with Tony Jaa, a "making of" for the music video, selected B-Roll footage, a promo video featuring the RZA and trailers for the movie.
Final Thoughts: "Ong-Bak" isn't without some concerns, but the action sequences are impressive, especially considering no assistance was used. Fox's DVD edition provides good audio/video quality, along with a few minor supplements.
The Film B