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May 15, 2013

Movie Review: Muay Thai Warrior (2011, Blu-ray)

Review By: Rob Sibley

Do you dig Muay Thai boxing? How about ninjas and some right on the money Samurai action? How about all of that tossed into one film? If so, this little Thai mini-epic might just be the tasty little morsel you've been looking for. Let me backtrack a bit, I've always been a sucker for any film featuring Muay Thai fighting. Muay Thai fight films really became popular on American shores when Tony Jaa burst onto the scene with Ong-bak in 2003. Since then Muay Thai films having been popping up left, right and center. The best of the bunch have starred Jaa and usually were directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Who is arguably the most talented action director in Thailand.

Jaa wasn't alone though, equally talented but sadly nowhere near as famous is Dan Chupong. Who stared in two equally impressive films Born to Fight and the bat-shit crazy Thai-Western Dynamite Warrior. I would also be doing Thai action cinema a disservice if I didn't bring up Panna Rittikrai. The man is responsible for discovering Chupong and Jaa along with directing Ong-Bak 2 & 3. While were talking Thai action stars JeeJa Yanin jumped onto the scene and showed fighting wasn't only for dudes. Her impressive skills were showcased in her debut “Chocolate” (Directed by Pinkaew) and “Raging Phoenix”. Her latest flick is going to be co-starring role in Tony Jaa's The Protector 2 which also interestingly enough is going to feature Dan Chupong as well.

So my love for Thai action films leads me to this bad boy. Muay Thai Warrior formally known as “Yamada: Way of the samurai” was quite the surprise. I was expecting your typical paper thin plot with plot holes galore and with some fight scenes tossed in to keep me from dozing off. What I got was an engaging little action film with enough heart, blood and engaging characters to keep any fight fan satisfied.

The film is built around loosely true events and tells the tale of Yamada Nagamasa (Seigi Ozeki). Yamada who is a soldier in the Japanese volunteer regiment, he is quickly deceived and is left for dead by a group of Ninja's pretending to be soldiers on the same side of the fight. Yamada is pretty damn messed up (Being left for dead will do that to a person.) Luckily for our dear Yamada a group of Thai warriors happen upon him. He's nursed back to health and you know the story from here, he's trained in Muay Thai and despite being Japanese and on pretty much the opposite side of the battlefield. He soon befriends his fellow Thai buddies. In the process he becomes a royal guard to King Naresuan. That is after he proves himself in some very well choreographed arena style fighting. It's not long after that Yamada takes revenge on the men who left him for dead... carnage ensues.

Wow... what a surprise this film was. I do something I usually don't do, read other reviews before writing my own. The overall opinion from other critics was rather lackluster surprisingly. One of my dearest friends and incredibly talented reviewer James DePaolo over at gave the film a rather glowing review.

One of the main reasons this film is so enjoyable is do to the fact that it isn't just focused on Muay Thai boxing. Sure you get plenty of that, but you also get very well done sword fights and ninja attacks to keep things interesting. All the fighting is extremely impressive, the swordplay is quick and brutal. The film certainly features enough samurai carnage to attract fans of Lone Wolf & Cub and films of that ilk.

How was the Muay Thai boxing you might ask? Bone breakingly (Is that a word? Doubtful.) awesome. It's easy to tell that a lot of time and effort went into the fight choreography. It also doesn't hurt that the film casts real life K1 fighter Buakaw Banchamek, kickboxer Saenchai Sor. Kingstar and last but not least national title winner and “The Iron Hands of Siam” Apisak Rongpichai. It's refreshing for a change in Thai cinema to see real fighters take on each on each other and not just stunt men duking it out. The film has been compared to the Tom Cruise flick “The Last Samurai”. It's not surprising since the plot does bare some semblance of similarities. But so what? This is an enjoyable action flick and one of the better fight films I've come across recently.

The Blu-ray is brought to us from the fine folks over at Well Go USA who have a keen eye for solid Asian action flicks.

You get the film presented in 1080P and it's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It's the not prettiest gal at the ball so to speak. The film looks rather soft for the most part, you'll also have to put up with some crushing and digital noise a plenty during some of the night time sequences. It's really hard to pinpoint exactly what kind of camera this film was shot on. The clarity levels jump around a lot. At one moment the film will look pristine, verging on reference quality. Then the next moment will look... well rather cheap. But this is no fault of the distributor, this is probably the best the film is going to look considering it's low budget roots.

The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio on the other hand is a completely different story. It's a helluva robust track. Well done.

Sadly the only extra on this disk is the films trailer which is a huge disappointment considering the UK DVD release from CineAsia' features a documentary on Thai boxing. The disk also featured some deleted scenes and a commentary from Asian cinema expert Bay Logan. Shame none of these extras were ported over for the American release...

Muay Thai Warrior is a fine film, a damn fun flick! I really RECOMMEND this film for any fan of martial arts cinema.

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