Ong bak: The Beginning Blu-ray Review

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Reviewed by Cas Harlow, 22nd February 2010
Ong Bak: The Beginning is a padded-out, over-stylised two-thirds-of-a-movie that offers viewers nothing that they have not seen done a dozen times over the last few years (and better), other than Tony Jaa getting to kick ass in his own, inimitable, blistering jaw-dropping way. I think that this would have been enough to justify its addition to your collection, were it not for the fact that we get a Region Free release in the UK that is not even as good as the already-limited US equivalent. Decent enough video, sub-par audio (with a track that already has a horrendous score) and lacklustre extras (that are thinner even that the US edition offers) all come together to disappoint. And whilst it may not be a better cut, the fact that we don’t even get the alternate, shorter, Luc Besson-tinkered version just compounds the insult. Worth a rental only, but if you really must purchase it then you may have to look overseas for the better release. Or even wait for the inevitable trilogy box set which may have improved tech specs and extras. And let’s hope for better from Jaa in the future, because this isn’t the kind of movie that will make him the international superstar that his martial arts skill truly deserve. This may be a step in the right direction, but it’s just a baby step.
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Standard Member
That's a harsh score if your going to rate a martial arts movie then you have to take into account that story is rarely something to sing and dance about. This film makes no apologies for what it is and it doesn't need.

Crouching Tiger was a more appealing film to those who rarely appreciate martial arts but the typical love triangles and disgraceful wire-fu mean that it will never be a film that will ever be appreciated by a true martial arts enthusiast. Tony Jaa does not play comedy characters nor does he need to aspire to become something more suited to the tastes of western audiences. You make it sound like every action star should aspire towards Hollywood, why? Jaa's style might not be to your tastes but when you mentioned Seagal I could only shake my head in laughter (yes Steven Seagal stars in terrible films with boring action many of us are all too fed up with his Mr untouchable nonsense). Bare in mind that nearly all of Jet Li's Hollywood films are some of his worst also bear in mind that apart from perhaps Rush Hour/II most of Jackie's best films were made in Hong Kong. So no I would not like to see Jaa star in some cheesy assembly line Hollywood film. I hope Jaa continues making his films in the east. In the future it would be good if Jaa worked in calibration with Hong Kong studios with other comparable action stars like Donnie Yen.

If your interested in Martial Arts don't be put off this film is quite engaging and has excellent video quality on Blu-ray, It really captures a dark and gritty atmosphere in ancient Thailand (the pirate scenes at the beginning with the alligator sequence) and the fight scenes are truly bone crunching you will never find fighting action like this in a Hollywood film.

A 5 if you don't like martial arts but I'd say more a 7.5/8 with a 9/10 for action.
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Casimir Harlow

Blu-ray Reviewer
The problem, as I thought I had explained at length, was that this film aspires to be more than just a martial arts action film. It takes 45 minutes to tell the set-up so clearly it is not trying to be just a martial arts film. My point was that it does not work when compared to the likes of Crouching Tiger and its Wuxia ilk. And it also does not work if you're just looking for action (i.e. the first Ong Bak provided just that) because of all the padding.

He doesn't need to go to Hollywood, like many you've mentioned he will probably make better films outside Hollywood, but that's the direction he's chosen to go it. He's avidly learning English and is attempting to do movies that will reach a broader audience. In the process, I think we're not getting as entertaining films as we should - we're getting three quarters of a movie and having to wait for the other bit because the studios want to make double the money out of what is basically one film.

And if I didn't like martial arts then I wouldn't watch the movie, let alone give it a 6. Bodyguards and Assassins, with Donnie Yen - which I'm currently reviewing - is a prime example of a film that has some excellent martial arts scenes in it, but is not defined by them. I hope one day that Jaa does something along those lines, but Ong Bak 2 is a long way away from that.

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