While I may love martial arts films, the good ones seem to be getting harder to find. Home video distributor Well Go USA is hell bent on becoming the next Dragon Dynasty, which also released a glut of these films in the late 2000s to varying degrees. For every winner, there are at least a few losers. Unfortunately, they can’t all be Tai Chi Zero. Which brings us to Muay Thai Warrior.
The cover art boasts a blurb about the film being “The Last Samurai meets Ong Bak.” Although the film may have some Muay Thai boxing sprinkled throughout the excruciating 101 minute runtime, this is definitely neither Last Samurai nor Ong Bak.
The plot is of course secondary to the “action,” but Muay Thai Warrior tells the tale of Yamada (Seigi Ozeki) who is brought to the village of Ayathaya by Khaam (Thanawut Ketsaro) after an attack by Japanese warriors. Yamada is healed by Phra Khruu (Sorapong Chatree) because he has healed dying animals so how could he let a human die? Yamada may know a thing or two about his own martial arts, but he wants to learn the art of Muay Thai boxing. It’s not until an attack upon their leader prompts the action to finally kick in (along with some questionable CGI) that anything really even happens. Up until that point, Yamada is continually beaten up by Khaam and mocked with the name “white face” by a young village girl.
If the pacing doesn’t kill your interest while suffering through Muay Thai Warrior, the lack of action and the resulting use of CGI will. If they had the money to spend on these so-called “effects,” they probably have spent even less on proper practical effects. Instead we’re treated to a repetitious script that keeps hammering the same mantra over and over when all we came for was the action.
I know that some films use a good plot to make the fight scenes feel necessary, but here the screenplay is so thin that’s all we’re left waiting for and when it finally comes, what a letdown. I know this being a foreign production one’s expectations shouldn’t be too high in the acting department, but what a bore Ozeki turns out to be. He’s no Tony Jaa and even he wasn’t the most charismatic actor to begin with. But what Jaa lacked in the acting department he more than made up for in sheer brutality.
Muay Thai Warrior comes to Blu-ray in a supposedly 1080p presentation framed at 1.85:1. How anyone could consider this high-def is beyond me. Especially after watching the preceding trailers for the films also coming soon from Well Go USA (Kill ‘Em All, The Assassins, and Tai Chi Zero). They look way better than any given moment of the entirety of Muay Thai Warrior. Crush? You got it. Banding? You bet. Oversaturation? No problem!
I watched a DVD screener for another film directly after this and there’s no way you’d ever guess that Muay Thai Warrior is a high-def release. Everything on screen is murky and soft. This is doubtfully the fault of Well Go USA. I’m sure the film elements were out of their hands. Especially considering later that night I popped in the Blu-ray for Tai Chi Zero. Now that’s a proper Blu-ray presentation.
The sound doesn’t fare any better, but it’s at least better than the video. The Thai: DTS-HD Master Audio in 5.1 may be rather rear heavy, but at least there’s some activity going on. You’d think they could have made the film look better than they have even being hampered with a 25GB disc when the only special feature is the film’s trailer.
The final word here is to skip Muay Thai Warrior altogether. The troubled video could have easily been overlooked had the film been even remotely entertaining. It’s definitely not worth spending the money on a purchase, and even paying $1 at Redbox is iffy. Well Go USA has too many better films at their disposal from what I’ve heard of their other releases, and seen firsthand in Tai Chi Zero (a brilliantly overactive hybrid of Kung Fu Hustle meets Scott Pilgrim by way of steam punk). Seek out one of their other releases instead, there’s nothing you haven’t seen here before and done way better.
Cover art courtesy Well Go USA