Ong Bak 3 begins with a mesmerizing brawl, Tien (Tony Jaa) breaking free of his captors chains, turning those two pieces of metal into individual whips. The ensuing brawl is pure martial arts majesty, delivered with such grace and violence, you’re positive Tony Jaa is back to form.
… and then nothing.
Well, that’s not entirely fair. There is something here, although what is a baffling mystery. The story, some mixture of spells, curses, crow-people, monks, dancing, flashbacks, flash forwards, time rewinding, murders, betrayals, mind control, romance, comedic relief, resurrection, Christ-like imagery, and inflated ego is as convoluted as that sentence.
It takes an hour after that initial brawl for Jaa to get back into the action, beaten so severely he is, no joke, brought back from death because of some village worship, a statue, and mummification. It’s even more confusing on screen. Seeing Jaa on top of a concrete structure wearing all white with a staff has obvious religious implications, and since he was seen sporting a killer beard earlier, to what is of little mystery.
Tony Jaa stars, directs, and writes this sequel, putting himself in a perfect light. His career was built on violence: brutal, vicious violence. The Muay Thai hits with nothing but power… and then he stops using it entirely. The finale involves more elephants, yet without any of the flair present in the second film. The jumbled editing and styles never mesh, and the wait for any type of action is hardly satisfied.
Ong Bak 3 is monumentally stupid, convoluted, and confusing every moment a piece of the film passes by. Some excuses could be made purely because this schlock has to follow up the equally monstrous Ong Bak 2, no easy task. That still doesn’t make-up for the total lack of action in this action movie, or the inflating ego that only gets bigger as time moves on.
Magnolia doesn’t destroy this Region A transfer, the second film presented on these shores with so many problems it barely resembled film. Ong Bak 3’s AVC encode at least has some merit, the outstanding layer of precise, accurate detail at times mind-blowing. Jaa tends to aim for extreme close-ups, almost every one a new winner in the battle for exquisitely rendered facial detail… that is assuming of course the shot in question is actually in focus. Many of them are not.
The film stock has a layer of natural, consistent grain. Compression only reveals itself during moments of thick or heavy smoke, an issue during the final 30 or so minutes. A digital intermediate destroys any natural beauty present in the Thailand locations, ramping up the orange flesh tones and embedding the greenery with excessive teal. The combination is as hideous as it is unoriginal. Earthy browns are completely lost for the the sake of more orange, orange, and orange.
Shadow detail joins the browns in, “what happened to you?” land, black levels completely overwhelming the screen. Not a single sequence as night presents itself with any clarity, and it’s not just the shallow lighting. Daytime scenes too are terribly exaggerated in a desperate bid for depth, the routinely hot contrast flooding areas of the screen that should produce actual imagery.
There’s a hint of sharpening visible too, some of the finest of details on the king’s costumes or the elaborate decorations flickering when in motion. Various views of the village or forest as the camera pans back reveals some halos and ringing. This is all similar to another Magnolia effort, Warlords. When discs from other regions make their presence felt, the extent of any localization will be known (as it was for Warlords).
There are two uncompressed audio tracks, original Thai and an English dub, both DTS-HD. This review only dissects the Thai. Punches (when present) pack the necessary low-end accompaniment, elbows crunching into their targets with a smooth low-end bump. Elephants stomp which creates a powerful rumble, although one that is inconsistent.
Late in the film, Jaa apparently gains some type of force powers, staring down his foe as a continual rumble enters into the sub. It’s a solid minute of shaking at 1:25:00, although the reasons for the effect are completely unclear. The Force idea is as good as any.
The surrounds are typically flat save for a few instances. As the king goes mad at 15:34, voices begin swirling around the soundfield. Just a minute or so later, his castle crumbles around him, the debris hitting each channel. Where it disappoints are the fight scenes. As Jaa whips the chains around in the opening sequence, almost nothing finds the rear channels. Motion is poorly tracked to the sides, leaving the stereos to handle the score and not much else.
Making of a Legend is, well, a making-of that is mostly comprised of a Jaa interview. Uncovering the Action is six minutes of choreography set to music, while Behind-the-Scenes Footage is much of the same stuff, only without music and longer. Six interview segments chat with cast and crew, the Jaa interview from earlier repeated here.
A preview from HDNet is just a promo for three minutes, while some trailers are on the disc and available from BD-Live.