Basically picking up where Ong Bak 2 ended, this third (and hopefully final) film in the series once again places us in the Thailand of centuries past where our heroic noble warrior, Tien (Tony Jaa) has been captured by the sinister Lord Rajasena (Sarunyu Wongkrajang). You see, Rajasena was responsible for the death of Tien's mother and father, and as such, he wanted payback, but this didn't work out so well judging by the fact that, when we catch up with him, he's chained up. From here, Rajasena decrees that Tien will be punished in thirteen different ways, and from here he's flogged and beaten for what seems like an eternity. Just before Rajasena is about to have Tien's head severed from its body, he's saved at the last minute by the King and let go, safe to return (albeit in very bad shape) to the village he left long ago.
While Tien is healing, Rajasena has his turf moved in on by Bhuti (Dan Chupong), an all together different bad guy, but then we cut back to Tien who just sort of hangs out and learns from a priest named Master Bua (Nirutti Sirijanya) for half an hour or so - and the movie more or less comes to a screeching halt, because Tien trains in the ways of pacifism. Now, not to take away from such a noble belief system, but honestly, it doesn't make for particularly interesting viewing BECAUSE NOTHING REALLY HAPPENS. Jaa's character basically meditates and grows facial hair and this is not fun to watch. Thankfully (though evidently contradicting whatever message the film was trying to deliver up to this point), in the last fifteen minutes of the film Tien snaps and decides to kick the living crap out of Bhuti and his army of bad guys until he gets to Bhuti himself.
The only real highlight in this film is the last fifteen minutes, a decent fight scene by most standards but nothing on the level of what the first two films had to offer. In fact, this big finish actually feels more like an outtake from the first two films than anything more substantial, a complaint that you can easily levy against this film as a whole. Ong Bak 3 is so disjointed and so poorly put together that it feels unfinished. While the second film in the series didn't set the world on fire with its storytelling, it at least featured enough bad ass fight scenes to help cover up the fact that, in terms of its narrative, it was weak. This third chapter, however, can't even be bothered to do that and it seems like little more than a pale cash-in meant to ride the coattails of the first film's nearly legendary status.
On top of that, the film seems to want to imply that violence isn't the answer, which is all well and good and in keeping with different philosophies that it bandies about, but then completely changes its direction by having Tien unleash the full fury of his martial arts abilities and thus completely alienating the pacifist training that takes up so much of the film's running time.
Ong Bak 3 arrives on DVD in a very nice 2.35.1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. Colors are nice and bold and if sometimes they look to be intentionally oversaturated, it adds to the movie's 'hot' look and is in keeping with the visuals in the first two films. Detail is pretty good, there are no problems with heavy mpeg compression or edge enhancement nor are there any serious print damage issues to report.
Watch the film in its original Thai language by way of the included Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound track with optional English subtitles, or watch it dubbed into English, again, in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. The Thai track definitely suits the film better than the dubbed one does, but you probably knew that already. There's good channel separation throughout the film and the levels are well balanced. There are a couple of spots where things spike a little bit but these moments are few and far between. Overall the movie sounds fine.
The most substantial extras on the disc are the six short interviews that are included. Tony Jaa speaks for ten minutes about the philosophical aspects of the film and what he tried to bring to the character and four of the other cast members more or less do the same while action director Panna Rittikrai gives us a bit of technical insight into the choreography. There's just under a half an hour's worth of footage here in total. There's also a fourteen minute B-Roll clip that contains some outtakes and behind the scenes footage.
Rounding out the extras is a trailer, promos for a few other Magnolia releases, menus and chapter stops.
Ong Bak 3 is a series of mistakes focused around a couple of cool fight scenes. There's really no story here to dig into, no real character development or interesting progression of any sort. It's a completely vacant film, and as such, is a massive disappointment in pretty much every possible way. To Magnolia's credit, they've assembled a DVD that looks and sounds quite nice, but the content on it just doesn't cut it. Skip it.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.