Ong-Bak DVD Review (Region 1)

Seth Gecko

retired member
<P STYLE='text-align: center'><FONT STYLE='font-size: 18px'><IMG SRC='' ALT='ONG-BAK DVD cover artwork' ALIGN='RIGHT'>ONG-BAK</FONT><br>Reviewed August 2005 by <A HREF='search.php?do=process&query=Simon Crust&showposts=1&forumchoice[]=107&forumchoice[]=197' target='_top'>Simon Crust</A>.</P><P><B>The Movie : 8</B></P><P> Martial Arts films, or as they like to be called Kung Fu movies have been with us a ling time. Perhaps the first and certainly the most prolific film series was Wong Fei-Hung (a Chinese Robin Hood if you will) staring Kwan Tak-Hing a master of the Tibetan White Crane form between the 1940’s and 1960’s. A staple diet in its native Asia, it wasn’t until Bruce Lee came along and initiated the West with his Enter the Dragon in 1973 that Asian cinema and specifically the martial arts movie become a world phenomenon. Lee’s style of film was a departure from the stylised choreography with its impossible moves etc. and grounded him far more in reality. A testament to his fame was that he performed all his own moves, and choreographed himself (always to look the best) and thus a more realistic tone was set. After his untimely death came a slew of look-alikes and copies. The martial arts film was in danger of becoming stale. It wasn’t until Jackie Chan came a long with his fresh approach of interjecting comedy in the 1980’s that ‘Kung Fu’ cinema was once again seen outside its native land. Chan’s reputation was drawn on the fact that he performed all his own stunts, something he still does to this day. The Demigod status that is ascribed to these two men means that any new up and coming star is automatically donned ‘The New…’ and has to really work to forge a reputation for his or her own. In the case of Tony Lee, the star of tonight’s feature, he has been labelled with both. How then will this young man be able to outshine this praise? Simple really, continue to make films like Ong-Bak; soon everyone will remember him for his incredible feats and not some ‘New Lee or Chan’.</P><P>Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior was completed in late 2002 and premiered in its home of Bangkok late January 2003. But it took a further five months before its reputation started to be sown, at the Cannes festival of the same year. It has then had a release in most countries of the world every month ever since, but it is perhaps the French that were its staunchest supporters. Lee even promoted the film there with live shows, before rap groups took a liking to the character and started using him in their song/videos. It was these very same songs that raised the interest of the American market and they took it upon themselves to promote the film, until now in August of 2005 we have the highly acclaimed Ong-Bak on DVD.</p><P>The film opens up with a group of young men starring at a tree. On a sudden cue all leap into action and try to gain the highest point to capture the flag tied at an upper most branch and bring it safely to the ground; and thus be crowned champion. This opening sequence sets the tone for the entire film, each and every one of these men are doing exactly what you can see, there is no camera trickery, no wires or any CGI of any kind. The grace with which the men ‘float’ around the branches is quite incredible, seldom have I seen such dexterity outside of a nature film of apes, such is their skill. From this point onwards the story could be from a thousand Asian films; the poor village (in Thailand) is wronged (in this case the head of their beloved Deity Ong-Bak is stolen by drug barrens) and the young martial arts specialist and winner of the tree contest, Ting, is charged with its return, during which he must over come difficulties and face an ultimate showdown. Let’s face it this plot could have been written on the back of a match box, it isn’t the plot that is important. Neither is it the acting, nor the stereotypical characterisation, no it is the action, the plot merely being a devise to move from one action sequence to the next, together with the presence of Lee that particularly makes this film quite so good. His screen presence is quite magnetic, not his acting abilities or the terrible dialogue he has to say, though hopefully these will mature with him, because at the moment he is far better suited to looking magnificent and performing the wildest martial arts moves I ever seen outside of Mortal Combat, the PS2 game not the film. The action sequences are quite phenomenal, when the fights breakout there is no holding back from these guys, the punches hit, the kicks land, the sticks thump.</p><P>However, the film is not just brutal realistic action it also contains many other layers. The first and most obvious is the comedic streak. Lee, though remains the enigmatic lead, much like his namesake, and leaves the comedy to his two friends George and Mauy. These two happy swindlers are constantly scamming and constantly coming up short. In the various chase sequences it is George that falls victim to the slapstick, much like Chan does in his own films. Underneath the violence and the comedy there are themes of retribution, reconciliation and loss. For me the feeling of loss is prevalent throughout the film, starting obviously and literally with the loss of the statues head. From this beginning there are the feelings of loss felt by the father for George, and his own denial of the fact that he too feels the same. It is only after his near death experience that George, himself, comes to terms and follows Ting in his quest. Unfortunately, this print is a slightly trimmed version, continuing the loss theme, Mauy has an older sister Ngek, but all her scenes were removed except her last appearance, making Mauy’s own journey somewhat nonsensical. Don’t go looking for an uncut print though as I doubt you’ll find one, even its initial release had some of the violence missing, reinstated for the West. And the final loss happens at the end, closing the film on what appears a sour note, though there is a slight silver, or should I say golden lining.</P><P>Ong-Bak is, then, a wild ride; rip-roaring action punctuated by a little plot and an overall feeling of loss. Closing on a bitter sweet ending, this film deserves all the praise being heaped on it, I expect we will see big things from Tony Lee in the future.</P><P><B>Picture : 8</B></P><P> The disc has been given a theatrically correct 1.85:1 aspect anamorphically enhanced for widescreen TVs picture with an average bitrate of 7.75 Mbps. Considering the films origins this picture is quite exceptional, even if there are one or two problems. First off detail levels are excellent; nothing is lost, everything sharp, too sharp in places but more of that later, with clear definition even when there is very little light. The colour pallet chosen is rich tending towards the red/yellow with no hint of bleed. However, I felt that there was occasion when the colours thinned somewhat, especially in exterior shots, particularly the bike chase. Edge enhancement was a bit of a problem too, a consequence of the detailed image unfortunately, but this was the only digital problem, compression artefacts were nowhere, no doubt because of the high bitrate. Finally, film gain was also visible in various scenes, mainly outside shots. Traditionally Asian films tend to look rather poor compared to western releases, Ong Bak is not one, while it is not quite as good looking as, say, New Police Story it is far better than most.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='ONG-BAK'></P><P><B>Sound : 8</B></P><P> No such problems with the sound though, so long as you ignore the English dub! The Thai Dolby digital 5.1 track is the track to watch this film too, though not as totally immersive as I would have liked it was still jam packed with plenty of surround action. From the ‘matrix-esc’ score to the fist slaps and kick thumps there is plenty of action for the speakers. The range was a full spread with deep rich bass all the way to clear high end, nothing was lost. Little direction from the dialogue, all centred at the front, most everything else has some sort of representation throughout the rest of the speakers. Even if the score was changed for this American release, it fits with the film giving it an energy, even if it does become a little obtrusive towards the end.</p><P>The English dub is a travesty, not only is it poorly done, but the pitch of the rest of the film is a least a semitone off, I found it excruciating. A quick word on the subtitles; seem to be a literal translation, are set at the bottom of the screen in a reasonable white font with correct spelling and grammatically correct. Also caters for hard of hearing too as it informs on ‘indistinct noise’ and ‘hip-hop’ music.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='ONG-BAK'></P><P><B>Extras : 3</B></P><P> The extras list at first glance looks impressive, but actually there is very little to do with the film here; almost nothing when you compare to other versions.</p><P>By far the best extra is the Behind the scenes stunts footage. It showcases three of the stunts, the bike chase, the kicking with the feet on fire and the second ring battle. This is real shaky camcorder work and is further proof that everything was done for real during this film, very interesting.</p><P>Next up we have a live demonstration with Tony Jaa and some stunt men at a French film premiere, last for a bout a two minutes and further demonstrates the mans skill.</p><P>There is a short presentation of some of the main moves used in the Muay Thai martial arts form used in the film.</p><P>There is a rap music video which even though I watch I found totally boring and can’t even remember the name of the band. To add insult to injury there was also a making of featurette for this video, in French with English subtitles, equally uninspiring.</p><P>There is a promotional video of the film featuring The RZA (of Woo Tang Clan fame apparently). Why?</p><P>Finally there are six of trailers for the film including teasers from both Thailand and France and one introduced by The RZA again.</p><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='ONG-BAK'></P><P><B>Trivia</B><br><P>For user information we use Bitrate 1.4 to scan the disk for the video bitrate, which also calculates the average bitrate. Below is a graph illustrating the bitrate of the disk, including the average bitrate reading. This disk averaged at 7.75 Mbps.</p></P><P STYLE='text-align: center'><IMG SRC='' ALT='ONG-BAK'></P><P><B>Verdict : 7</B></P><P>Ong-Bak in an amazing watch, a thrill a minute, no holds barred action beat-em up with perhaps a little more under the surface if you’re prepared to look that far. It deserves to do well. As a DVD Fox have delivered a very decent film with good sound, even if the package is a little weak. I know of at least one version with a very comprehensive (and relevant) extras package and fans may find themselves drawn in that direction.</p><TABLE border='0' CELLPADDING='0' CELLSPACING='2' WIDTH='100%'><TR><TD COLSPAN='2'><B>ONG-BAK (2003)</B></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Genres</TD><TD><A HREF='' target='_blank'>ACTION</A>, <A HREF='' target='_blank'>ADVENTURE</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Director</TD><TD><A HREF=' PINKAEW' target='_blank'>PRACHYA PINKAEW</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Stars</TD><TD><A HREF=' JAA' target='_blank'>TONY JAA</A>, <A HREF=' WONGKAMLAO' target='_blank'>PETCHTAI WONGKAMLAO</A>, <A HREF=' YODKAMOL' target='_blank'>PUMWAREE YODKAMOL</A>, <A HREF=' PONGWILAI' target='_blank'>SUCHAO PONGWILAI</A></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65'><B>Region</B></TD><TD><B>1</B> <FONT>(USA)</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Supplier</TD><TD><FONT>Twentieth Century Fox. Released Tuesday 30th August 2005</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>SRP</TD><TD><FONT>$27.98</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Discs</TD><TD><FONT>1</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Format</TD><TD><FONT>DVD9</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Time</TD><TD><FONT>135 mins.</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD VALIGN='TOP' WIDTH='65'>Chapters</TD><TD><FONT>29</FONT></TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Picture</TD><TD>Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1&nbsp;</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Sound</TD><TD>Thai Dolby Digital 5.1<BR>English Dolby Digital 3.0 Surround</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Subtitles</TD><TD>English, Spanish</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Case</TD><TD>Amaray</TD></TR><TR><TD WIDTH='65' VALIGN='TOP'>Extras</TD><TD>Tony Jaa performance at French screening<BR>Rap music video featuring Tony Jaa<BR>Making of the music video<BR>Movements of Muay Thai<BR>Behind the scenes stunt footage<BR>Promotional video featuring The RZA<BR>Trailers</TD></TR></TABLE><P STYLE='text-align: center'>If you would like to comment on this review, please reply below.</P>


Active Member
I imagine the promo video with The Rza is because the Wu-Tang Clan are pretty much synonymous with the crossover between hip-hop music and kung-fu flicks.

If you can go through one of the Wu-Tang albums (or solo spin-offs) and not find a reference to some obscure Shaw Brothers picture or martial arts practitioner then you're a better man than I.

In point of fact, didn't some enterprising DVD label release a bunch of kung-fu flicks recently which were "presented in association" with Rza and his Shaolin Island reprobates?

This is a case, I think, of someone with genuine fan appreciation for the genre being roped in to promote something and perhaps even attract their own fans to something which they otherwise may have overlooked. Not a bad thing necessarily...
The fights were good but the story was pretty crappy, some of the actors had annoying voices, but 8 for the movie that's just taking the ****, I would give it a 5, a 6 at max, just beause it had amazing fights doesn't justify giving it a high score....a proper film critic would prolly give it a 3, action does not make a movie..

Simon Crust

Movie Reviewer
So we're not proper film critic's?

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Take a look at our signatures, explains a lot.



Well-known Member
this movie is in my best of all time,

one of the reasons this was such a hit was there was no stunt doubles, no wires used.

tony jaa is the next jackie chan/bruce lee.

the bext version of ong bak will be the UK version as it will have dts sound track and it will be in english with all the xtra features.


Well-known Member
Any film critic who gives this less than a '6' should be publically hanged. It doesn't pretend to have an amazing story; simply fantastic action scenes that defy what is possible. This is one of the best, if not the best, martial arts films I've ever seen.

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