Ong Bak: The Beginning Blu-ray review

A sort-of-prequel to Ong Bak arrives on Blu-ray. Tony Jaa in high definition? What could go wrong?

Set in the early 15th Century, Ong Bak: The Beginning is a prequel (of sorts) to 2003’s Ong Bak, the Thai martial arts movie that featured, as does this one, Tony Jaa as the protagonist, martial arts and amazing stunts.

In Ong Bak 2, Tien is the son of a murdered lord who escapes his father’s killer, falls into the hands of slave traders, escapes their clutches and is rescued by Cher Nung, trained in various martial arts and, as an adult (Tony Jaa), goes on a quest to defeat his father’s killers and the leader of the slave traders. Through flashbacks, we discover what happened to Tien’s people and what led to Tien being with his father just before he was murdered in the first place.

On his travels, Tien fights crocodiles, a strange roaring and snarling lion lady, bad guys, good guys and anyone else that crosses his path. As he goes along, he develops as a character through his ability to punch and kick, leap and pounce. He’s brutal, inventive and takes no prisoners. He also works with other members of Team Tien to defeat the enemy, but that’s not important, really. It’s all about Tien and his quest to drive back the overlord that has cut a swathe across the land, restoring order and bringing about justice as he goes. Well, that last bit is a bit of stretch. There’s no real explanation of what happens after he’s gone from one scene of combat to the next!

Thankfully, Tien seems happy with his kick-ass lifestyle and doesn’t spend much time questioning his actions. Even beaten, battered and bruised, nothing stops him as he defeats the bad guys and saves the day… or does he? We’ll get our answers in Ong Bak 3, I’m guessing.

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The plot doesn’t reek of creativity, but the execution does… mostly. Very much like the first film, casting aside, the plot silliness lets you concentrate on the far more substantial martial arts sequences. All of the combat sequences are impressive, bloody and violent with every punch, kick, stab and slash looking like it hurts a lot. Where it is really let down, however, is in some inexplicably bad CGI work in the form of fire that appears to be insubstantial and, in places, unlike fire. It’s odd given that they do have some sequences where they appear to use actual fire!

The first Ong Bak proudly boasted that there was no wire work. The same claim doesn’t scream out on the cover of Ong Bak: The Beginning. I’m guessing that there was some wire work involved, especially when you  look at the elephant stampede and the final confrontation, but this doesn’t detract from the practically constant charged action that is interrupted by the occasional plot development.

If you like martial arts films, don’t mind subtitles (no English dub here) and won’t complain about the sometimes nonsensical, incredibly secondary and rather strange plot, you’ll definitely enjoy Ong Bak: The Beginning. You can also add a star to my rating.

The Disc

The picture quality regularly exceeds 30Mbps, the image is sharp, colourful and clean, though it suffers from grain during some of the night time scenes. The same cannot be said of the sound; audio is muddy when presented in 5.1 and actually much clearer in 2.0. Aside from the bizarre lack of clarity, particularly in speech, 5.1 is effectively used.

The lack of any commentary is a real shame. It would have been nice to hear the director, star or some other knowledgeable individual speak about the making of the film.

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Amazingly, there’s also no ‘making of’. Again, a huge missed opportunity. I would have loved to hear about the production process and the difficulties encountered in making the film.

What we do have is a handful of standard definition features. There’s 25 minutes of behind-the-scenes footage showing the filming of some scenes, cuts and scrapes, choreography and some set design. Without any form of commentary it lacks any real value, though isn’t uninteresting.

The Photo Gallery lasts for two minutes and consists of stills from the film and  he trailer and teaser trailer are… trailers. 

There are four Press Interview Clips. The clips featuring Tony Jaa and Panma Pittikrai (Producer) are the longest and are really quite interesting as they explore the intentions and development of the film, though not in great depth. The other two clips are throw away affairs featuring the actors Sorapong Chatree and Primrata Det-Udom. It wouldn’t have taken a lot to merge the clips into the behind-the -cenes footage and turn it into a ‘Making Of’!


3 stars

Ong Bak: The Beginning is out now on Blu-ray and available from the Den Of Geek Store.

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3 out of 5