Demon Warriors a/k/a Opapatika is a visually arresting fantasy action movie which may be disappointing to viewers who wish to understand what the hell is going on from moment to moment in a film. The story is often oblique, opaque and meditative, and largely character centered, even while throwing in dozens of elaborately staged gun and knife fights.
The tale involves a Thai police detective named Techit (Leo Putt) who is convinced to kill himself in order to become an opapatika. An opapatika is a person, usually a suicide, who is no longer human, and who has special powers. Not everyone can become an opapatika, and some of them were never human to begin with. They are not ghosts. They have tangible bodies that can be seen and interacted with by normal humans. Every opapatika also has to endure a curse of some kind, connected to their special power. Techit's power is to read minds, but every time he does he loses the use of one of his five senses. This doesn't seem to stop him from interacting normally with those around him, though, so perhaps it's not as much of a loss as it seems.
Techit is sent by his opapatika sponsor Sadok to kill four other opapatikas and to find a girl named Pran. Sadok's reasons for killing the other opapatikas remain fuzzy through most of the film, but it is connected with his desire to live past his allotted lifespan of one hundred years. Techit's intended victims are: Jiras (Somchai Kemglad) who is immortal and regenerates every time he is killed; Paisol (Shahkrit Yamnarm) who knows exactly where to stab / shoot anyone to kill them, but receives whatever wound he inflicts on another upon his own body; Arus (Ray MacDonald) who is a vicious killer with super speed at night, and a sensitive and gentle man during the day; and Ramil (Athip Nana) who can separate his soul from his body, and send it around to kill people. Techit is assisted in his task by the sole human in the film, Tuwachit (Pongpat Wachirabunjong) who loyally serves his opapatika master Sadok. Techit dutifully works to track down the opapatika, which mostly consists of following around Tuwachit and his seemingly endless supply of paramilitary troops as they follow the opapatika wherever they go. Many gory, intricately staged fights ensue, between Techit and his prey, between the paramilitary goons and the opapatikas, and between the opapatikas themselves, who are not always on the best of terms.
This may sound a bit confusing. It most definitely is. There is a blizzard of characters to keep straight, who are for the most part dour, expressionless middle aged men with super powers. The film does not help matters by its heavy focus on mood at the expense of exposition, often breaking up the narrative structure with flashbacks or even inserting shots that serve no purpose other than to look interesting. Which leads to Demon Warriors' strongest point. The viewer might not understand what the hell is going on, why people are doing what they are doing, who the woman Pran is and why she is important, why immortal fleshly ghosts use guns or why Techit insists on wearing sunglasses at all hours of the day, but they cannot help but be impressed by how everything looks. Dramatic framing and lighting add a lot of oomph to the impressive stunts, fight choreography and visual effects. Director Thanakorn Pongsuwan has a singular visual sense, and employs it deftly here. Everything is beautifully done, with grace and style. But to what end? None of these characters is particularly endearing, and some of them are downright despicable. Who are the viewers supposed to root for? With so many characters, it is not possible to devote enough time to get more than a superficial understanding of what they are about. It seems that there are depths below the surface, but what they are is anyone's guess.
In short, Demon Warriors is a great looking movie that doesn't make a lot of sense. If one is looking for a film with a clear, orderly narrative that is relatively transparent as far as character motivation and plot points, it won't be found here. If spectacle is all that is required, this film delivers buckets of it.
The video is presented in widescreen 1.78:1, and does have a few issues. The image is very grainy. There are also dust and scratches visible on the print from time to time. These are slight, and not terribly distracting. On the plus side, there is good contrast for the considerable night scenes, and the action is always visible. In an intentional choice, most of the colors are washed out and pale, which complements the overall mood.
The sound is available in both Dolby digital 5.1 channel and 2.0 channel, in both English and Thai. The English dubbing is actually quite good, and not amateurish and distracting as dubs to Asian films often are. The 5.1 channel sound is subtle, with some separation around the space and light use of the LFE channel during the shoot 'em up scenes, but not horribly impressive or sophisticated. It is serviceable for an action film, but not used to its full potential. Subtitles are available in English, Spanish and English Narrative, which is sparsely used translation of signs and printed material in Thai.
The main piece of extra material is a making of featurette, which clocks in at 15:47. It includes short interviews with the director and actors, and some behind the scenes footage. It doesn't go in depth, but does provide some insight and clarification of the characters, and provides a handy list of all of the opapatikas and their particular powers and handicaps. There are also trailers for Mutant Chronicles, Surveillance and Big Man Japan. All in all, not the sumptuous buffet of cinematic goodness that it could have been.
Demon Warriors is a good looking movie, visually arresting, stylish and exciting. But to what purpose when the viewer can barely keep track of what is happening and why? The meaningful looks and wistful walks through a decrepit city are all well and good, but they don't advance the plot or provide insight into the inner world of the superhuman beings we are being asked to sympathize with. The elaborate fights and shootouts are the most impressive thing about the film. If you are looking for anything further, look elsewhere.