Ong-Bak DVD Review
PictureThe movie is presented in a decent 1.85:1 aspect ratio anamorphically enhanced widescreen transfer that does its best to lift the production up from its obviously low-budget starting point. The detail is largely good, with only a little softness and some negligible edge enhancement. Some scenes exhibit more grain than others but overall it largely goes unnoticed. The colour scheme is quite restricted (predominantly browns) but still at least reasonably well represented and coming across pretty well in comparison with some other editions. The contrast level is also better here than any other release I have come across, with solid blacks that make for some excellent shadows. Unfortunately, the movie is clearly still lodged in its poorly-lit cheap-looking roots but this is the best that I have ever seen it, with no print defects whatsoever.
SoundWe get two main audio tracks, both in the original Thai language, but remixed with a new, more lively soundtrack. I had no problems with the original score, which had a more authentic Thai sound to it, but this has its own benefits - namely giving the movie a more big budget feel. The dialogue sounds clear in both tracks, mainly coming from the frontal array, with keen observation of the effects (mainly the thundering blows from Jaa's elbow but also including gunfire and explosions) allowing for some more diverse surround action. The new score gets the best treatment though, even offering a little bit of bass into the mix. Of the two tracks the DTS effort has a bit more potency, but they are both still excellent. Of course we get English subtitles as well, which are largely comprehensible.
ExtrasOn the first disc there is an Audio Commentary with Asian film expert Bey Logan, who does the commentaries for many Hong Kong Legends and Premier Asia titles. Fortunately I was not given the final version of this disc, so I did not have to listen to him because I generally do not like Logan commentaries. He is clearly very well informed in his field but he rattles off his trivia at such a rate that listening becomes more of a chore than a pleasure.
On the second disc we get eight Deleted Scenes, including an Alternate Ending, all available with English subtitles. They total about eight and a half minutes, running at roughly a minute each in length. There's more of Ting looking for divine inspiration, more George, more Muay and basically a lot more chat. We get a little more from the villain, more about the state of affairs back in Ting's village and an alternate ending with a brief bit of fighting and a change in fate for one of the main characters (you can guess if you've seen the film).
'Ong Bak on Tour' provides a brief three minutes' worth of Promotional Tour Footage, with movie clips interspliced with Tony Jaa's demonstrations, mainly at premieres.
'The Art of Muay Thai' is a twenty-four minute Documentary that goes 'behind the philosophy and techniques of Muay Thai boxing and features the masters and students of the Chitralada Gym and the world-famous Sor Vorapin Thai boxing Gym, in Bangkok, Thailand.' It is an interesting and revealing featurette where they discuss the origins of Muay Thai boxing (some two hundred years ago), the evolution of the art and the concepts behind it. There are interviews with various leading authorities (and gym owners), some of whom even go so far as to say that only Thai people can practise Thai boxing - something which I have difficultly believing is true. We get to see plenty of training footage, a clips from the main film itself and even a bit of proper Thai boxing match footage and overall it is quite an interesting featurette.
'The Road to Glory' is an eight-part Making Of Documentary, consisting of sections on Sacred Cloth, The Market Chase, Fight Club, Tuk-Tuk Mayhem, Ringside, Man on Fire, Pole Position and Final Victory. Totalling a whopping seventy-seven minutes in length, it is quite a mammoth task to watch this in one go. Each section has plenty of rehearsal footage, test runs, behind the scenes footage and alternative camera angles of the final cut. We get to see them practice the key sequences, with multiple takes, on-set gags and lots of instructions from the director. There is not too much footage from the main film itself and the featurette is worth watching alone for the sake of seeing yet more Tony Jaa action.
'From Dust to Glory' is a brief three-minute interview, purportedly with Tony Jaa. In actual fact, it is mostly a lot of promotional fluff, with the interviewer even briefly (but still superfluously) telling us what Ong Bak is about. Eventually we get about thirty seconds with the main man himself, where he talks about his influence from being brought up on Jackie Chan, Jet Li and Bruce Lee movies, before hearing from the director and then returning to Jaa for two more ten-second snippets. This would have been good were it not for the fact that it is 70% film footage and 10% interviewer fluff, with the remainder split between the person we want to hear from and the director.
'Visible Secret' provides us with four minutes of rehearsal fight footage, which sees Jaa 'fight' out a couple of little fight club sequences with a solid opponent. It is interesting to see this footage, but you will probably find it watch-once material.
'The Bodyguard' is a ten-minute interview with the Olympic Tae Kwon Do champion Don Ferguson, who talks about his training, his history, his academy and his work on movies, including Ong Bak. He discusses the training he gave, the atmosphere on set, the choreography and the brutality of the full-contact scenes. There is not enough rehearsal footage, a little too much final film footage, particularly towards the end, but it is still a nice addition.
'Mad Dog' is a twelve-minute interview with David Ismalone (who plays Jaa's crazy table-throwing opponent). He is much less dynamic and enthusiastic in comparison to Ferguson, but it is still quite interesting hearing his background both in fight clubs and tournaments and then on into movies. There is no rehearsal footage at all, with again too much final film footage, but at least this time it is generally related to the interview, with Ismalone often citing injuries sustained in the line of duty.
'Pearl Harbour' is a hefty fourteen-minute interview with co-star Erik Markus Sheutz (who is Jaa's very first opponent, the one who lasts about half a second). He talks about his background in martial arts and his history up until this movie, his experiences on set and, more generally, his experiences of Thailand. This time around we get even more film footage, often unrelated and probably the sole reason why this interview is so much longer. Of the three interviews, this is probably the least interesting, with Sheutz often drifting off at a tangent and taking the roundabout way to get to his points.
The UK Promotional Trailer runs at two minutes and advertises this new version of Ong Bak with an alternative soundtrack. It has a horribly overlong rant by deep-throat voiceover man which spoils the majority of it, but the fight clips should give you an idea of how good this movie (and Tony Jaa) is.
VerdictTony Jaa is the next best thing in terms of martial arts and this is the movie that proves it. It has seen many releases, a Thai release with lots of extras but no subtitles, an Australian two-disc release with subtitles but lacking some of the extras from the Thai version (most notably the deleted scenes) and now a superior UK release, also in two-disc glory. We get solid video and audio presentation and all of the extras you could hope for (apart from a subtitled director's commentary) on a disc, for a film that simply every martial arts action movie fan should own.
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