SRP $24.95 1.85:1 DTS-HD MA 5.1 FOX

FOX has released "ONG BAK: THE THAI WARIOR" on blu-ray.  "Ong Bak" is actually the title of a revered Buddha statuette.  When a greedy businessman steals it from the village where he once lived, a young man studying to be a monk, Ting, steps up to find and return it, before it's forever lost in the underground world of art collectors.  Ting heads to Bangkok, and naive to the ways of the big city, with the help of a criminal cousin, George, and George's friend, he learns the art of Muay Thai, "kickboxing." This martial arts form, allows Ting to enter fights for prize money which George needs to pay off his debt to a local loanshark/drug pusher. In turn Ting's winnings, George will help him track the statuette. While the plot is predictable and filled with numerous cliches, the fight scenes offer something new.  There's a great intensity and beauty to these fight sequences, and their impact isn't due to hidden wires and effects. Instead, the actor playing "Ting," Tony Jaa, appears to be the heir to the throne of Bruce Lee. Yes, he's that good!!!  "ONG BAK" lacks the fun and even cheesiness of "ENTER THE DRAGON," but it's still fun.  The manner in which Jaa maneuvers across scaffolds and scurries up tall trees, with such a casual, confident dexterity, evokes memories of Jackie Chan, but without the slapstick overtones.  While the film does have its humor, its excitement prevents it from ever feeling like a silly or embarrassing venture for the viewer. Well worth seeing even for those potential viewers whom might typically be turned off of what they perceive to be a martial arts film.

FOX has provided the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio for this AVC MPEG-4 1080p blu-ray.  Having seen a horrendous looking copy years ago on dvd, it was easy to get excited about the improved resolution on blu-ray. Unfortunately, this is a very disappointing transfer. Colors are never rich, and typically murky! Artifacts are noticeable in more than a few scenes and detail has been appreciably better on many dvds compared to what's offered here. Contrast is average, but it's a flat, dull image throughout. A huge disappointment, even at a seemingly attractive $24.95 sales price.

FOX has provided a DTS-HD MA 5.1 mix in original Thai, and another with English dubbing. Both are unremarkable. They sound heavily processed, and lifeless. Everything about the mixes feels very manufactured and unnatural. Surrounds are virtually undetectable, save for its use with a horrible soundtrack and music that's completely wrong for the onscreen drama or action.

A variety of brief featurettes, all in 480p, are offered, including a horrible "Making of Music Video."