** After reading a brief summary of the different cuts of the film available, it appears this is the "Luc Besson International Cut", which contains edits to the sound effects and levels of graphic violence, plus a different score**
With talk of the discovery of the “Next Bruce Lee” and “New Jackie Chan” surrounding this film like moths around a flame, I was desperate to check out this latest Thai import .
Ting (Tony Jaa) is the country bumpkin, and lethal Muay Thai exponent, who is sent to reclaim his village temple's stolen Buddha's head. During his quest to find the artifact, he becomes embroiled in the world of an underworld fight club, and must use his skills to save his village and his friends.
The plot and characters are instantly forgettable – you’ll have seen the tired excuse for a plot a million times before, and done better in many cases. The characters are as paper-thin you're ever likely to see, and In order to side-step Tony Jaa’s embarrassingly high-pitched voice, the rightly action takes center stage.
Petchtai Wongkamlao's charisma holds much of the non-action segments of the film together, as a quite awe-inspiring number of inept actors appear onscreen and induces the symptoms of "finger hovering over Off button"-itus.
Now, let me just clear this up: Jaa is neither the new Bruce Lee, nor the next Jackie Chan:
He doesn’t have Lee’s intensity or charisma, or Chan’s warmth or acting ability.
The action sequences utilise a hyped-up Muay Thai style, with the addition of some gymnastic flips and extravagant kicking techniques. The direction during the action sequences is impressive, as stunts are executed without wires and with LOTS of foot-to-face contact.
Whilst this certainly impresses, and adds a raw energy to much of the film, the action can occasionally begin to numb you after a while.
This is really the archetypal “post-pub movie” – you don’t need to pay attention to the story, and being somewhat half-cut is probably a positive when approaching most of the acting, but for action fans, this can hardly be faulted.
After the exemplary quality of Brotherhood’s transfer, maybe my expectations were unfairly raised.
A good start, with a print devoid of any distracting marks, is sadly let down by a print lacking in fine detail. Some scenes look a lot better than others, but things become particularly ropey during Jaa’s scene in a cave. A rather strange haze effect skips around the screen and makes an already murky image all the more distracting.
Colours are good, and artifacts are minimal, but this doesn’t hit the heights of Premier Asia’s recent offerings.
The sound effects seem slightly out of synch at times during the fight sequences – strikes land, but the sound-effects appear to be missing or extremely muted. I don’t know if this is intentional, or a by-product of the new soundtrack, but I found it slightly distracting.
Music is well produced though, and dialogue is also generally clear.
** Please note that the soundtrack has been re-written for this UK release. Accordingly, I have downgraded the mark for Sound Quality as I find it extremely frustrating not to have been given the option to listen to the film in its original form. **
My grasp of Thai is non-existent, so spotting any minor discrepancies with its translation is impossible.
Other than that, the subs do their job well with the basic dialogue.
** DTS and the Bey Logan Commentary are missing from the review disc I was provided with, so I cannot comment on those aspects of the Platinum Edition.**
Cutting Room Floor
The Promotional Archive
A very good set of extras is provided by the folks at Premier Asia.
Overall, the extras will certainly entertain and enlighten fans of the film, and are split into bite-sized chunks so as to make viewing much easier.
If I'm being brutally honest, I was slightly disappointed with Ong-Bak - with so much hype surrounding the film, and so many comparisons being made to action stars past and present, my expectations had been raised to an almost unmatchable level.