The home video distribution company Well Go USA specializes in bringing us some great Asian cinema that we'd most likely not be able to see otherwise. However, with every worthwhile title that comes along there are dozens of forgettable ones. 'Muay Thai Warrior' happens to be in the latter group.
One of the defining characteristics of these kinds of movies is the fight scenes. Many times the story comes second to the extended choreographed sequences where men beat each other senseless in a violent dance of feet and fists. When the action is stale, or cut in such a way to make it less than impressive, then my brain tends to shut down and my attention wanes. That's what I felt like watching this.
'Muay Thai Warrior' has been compared to 'Ong Bak.' While that may be true in structure, it's missing the vitality and overall energetic presence of martial arts superstar Tony Jaa. Seigi Ozeki, who stars as Yamada, doesn't have the same screen presence as Jaa conveys. The movie's editing doesn't help either. Whenever action scenes are upon us, the fight is cut with quick close-ups that never let us get a sense of what's going on.
Another area where many of these movies succeed is retelling history with an emphasis on core human values like love, greed, and forgiveness. This was present in the recently reviewed 'White Vengeance.' Here the historical background is sketchy at best and is never presented in a way that draws you into the story.
The movie does look good though. It's well photographed (but sadly isn't helped by its lackluster video presentation, more on that below). The problem is that Yamada and his story never fully grab the viewer's attention. The movie seems lost in its fight scenes that aren't as exciting as the movie thinks they are. There's been many times where I've found myself in awe of some of the action that Well Go USA distributes. This isn't one of those cases. All the action in 'Muay Thai Warrior' felt stale. I don't know it's due to the way the action is cut or that the story isn't interesting enough to make the action interesting. Either way the movie left a bland taste in my mouth.
The movie centers around a group of mysterious ninjas that beat Yamada senseless at the beginning and a group of mustachioed bodyguards that rescue him before the ninjas have a chance to kill him. It's too bad that the whole fight between the bodyguards and the ninjas is cloaked in some terribly troubled video. It was probably pretty cool, but I couldn't see it.
If you want an engaging, action-centric Asian film then stick to the 'Ong Bak' franchise. 'Muay Thai Warrior' just doesn't have what it takes to outshine many of the other memorable martial arts movies out there.
Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
This Well Go USA release is packaged in a standard keepcase, pressed onto a 25GB Blu-ray Disc, and is coded for use in Region A.
This is some really troubled video. How anyone can look at this 1080p presentation and believe that it's a passable transfer is beyond me. The entire thing is hampered by compression issues. There are a few moments of clarity, but not enough to overshadow the glaring inconsistencies within.
What you'll notice right off is that the movie has a huge trouble with black areas. Some of them appear bluish, other shadows have a light gray look. Never do blacks appear inky or resolute. This, in turn, causes awful crushing throughout the movie. That fight between the bodyguards and ninjas spoken of in the review, is a perfect example of how egregious the crushing gets in this presentation. It's almost impossible to see what's happening during that fight scene since the shadows engulf anything and everything they surround.
Banding is a horrible problem too. There are plenty of fade-ins and -outs replete with banding problems. There's no such thing as gradient color here either. Bands of color surround lights, impede blue skies, and encircle objects in the darkness. Micro-blocking can be spotted from time to time also. In the end this was a very frustrating movie to watch. One of those Blu-rays that you probably couldn't tell the difference between it and its DVD counterpart.
The Thai DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix is a little less sucky than the video, but I didn't find it all that immersive or engaging. It felt flat with little depth. A wholly unmemorable experience.
Dialogue is pretty clear, but I have a suspicion that these are dumbed down dub-titles and not accurate subtitles. They were far too simplified. This isn't based on any concrete information, but it was simply a feeling I had about them.
Rear channels offered add little to the overall effect. They felt like they were a little too quiet for the most part. The mix placed extra emphasis on the punching and kicking sound effects which made for a lopsided listening environment. LFE felt fine during drum beats and such. It's just one of those audio mixes that provides the basics, a few problems, and not much else.
I've seen some great Asian films distributed by Well Go USA, but 'Muay Thai Warrior' isn't one of them. This is a stale narrative paired together with a disappointing Blu-ray presentation. The video is horrendous at times and the audio doesn't ever emerge as anything above average. If you're a hardcore fan of Asian cinema this may be up your alley, all others need not apply.