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Feature


Hot on the trail of a prison escapee and his gang of hooligans, a young and brash police officer leads his men into a mysterious forest that is reputed to be haunted. A local monk guarding guide and his daughter offer their assistance, but no one expects the madness and frightening creatures they’re about to come in contact with. As they delve deeper into the forest the plot between the cop and his prey begins to thicken

I’ve seen some bad Thai flicks in my day, but I can’t recall ever seeing a boring Thai flick. Vengeance (aka Phairii phinaat paa mawrana) is no exception to this so far dominant rule. Like those other un-boring Thai flicks, Vengeance takes a simple hook and then proceeds to narrate the piss out of it, creating an unabashedly complex story that often neglects to make any sense to Western eyes. If this had been an American made film it would’ve been shot for $100,000, featured almost no story structure or dialogue, and it would’ve premiered on the Sci-Fi channel. But that’s what makes Vengeance a thoroughly entertaining experience, its gumption in the face of utter absurdity, not to mention more plot then the average made for Sci-Fi feature.

Vengeance
Vengeance looks great (shooting in Thai jungles doesn’t hurt), its actors are straight faced (and often surprisingly good), the production values are enormous for a Thai production, and yet it’s so gloriously B-movie in its soul that it’d be right at home on 42nd Street. Hollywood makes big budget B-movies all the time, but rarely are they this pure in their execution. There’s no winking at the camera, or much in the way of intentional humour at all, the mythic elements are almost taken for granted, and the violence is unapologetically gory when called for. There are even some hot naked girls. This is what I wanted out of Dragon War after witnessing those ridiculous early teaser trailers.

The whole thing takes a little too long to get down to its brass tacks, but once the cops and robbers enter the ‘haunted’ jungle, and the creatures and boogie girls start showing up, Preaw Sirisuwan begins to channel an array of well known action and supernatural filmmakers, most notably Tsui Hark, John Woo, Mario Bava, even Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg. In fact, the Jackson and Spielberg comparisons don’t end with the look. Effectively Vengeance is a sort of modern Thai take on The Lost World, or the first two thirds of the King Kong story, replacing filmmakers with police officers and criminals, and Skull Island with an equally mystical, but land locked jungle.

The digital effects aren’t the greatest in the world (some are actually pretty shameful), but the spectacle of the killer creatures is effective enough, and fitting of the production. Sirisuwan knows not to show too much most of the time, but he also gives up some nice money shots, and the creatures themselves are a nicely designed mix of fantasy and familiar animals. All in all I could’ve used a little more of these creatures, and a little less crime thriller and character elements, but when there are four or five genuinely effective fantasy creature sequences. Dragon War has Vengeance beat in quantity and budget, but quality and characters that aren’t entirely embarrassing to watch go a long way in a B monster movie. Also, Sirisuwan’s film makes the elements of love story and spiritual destiny a more dignified part of the story, rather than just the fodder between monster attacks.

Vengeance

Video


I wasn’t expecting the best out of BCI Eclipse, but this 1080p, 2:35.1 transfer is positively gorgeous. The details are super sharp, and very crisply separated. The detail levels are also quite consistent even in dimly lit shots, and varying depths of field, up until the very end when the lighting is often just too dark to tell what’s going on. Elements that are often lost in lesser transfers, like raindrops or smoke, are plainly visible. The vibrant colours of Thailand are nearly perfect, popping apart from each other in a truly rich display of the format’s abilities. I noticed very little grain or print damage, though there is some compression artefacting in the skin tones of the really dark sequences. Blacks absorb a little of their surrounding colours, and some of the day light whites bloom a little bit. It’s interesting to note that the subtitles almost always stay within the realms of the bottom black bar, very rarely bleeding over the film itself.

Audio


You’ve got your choice of a 5.1 Dolby Digital track (which the back panel calls ‘uncompressed’) in the original Thai, or a 2.0 Dolby Surround English dub. The dub is terribly mixed, so hopefully the choice won’t prove too difficult. [/i]Vengeance[/i] uses the surround and stereo channels regularly, whether it be ricocheting gunfire or growling beasts, and the effects often work well. The dialogue and natural sound effects don’t quite mix smoothly with the more outlandish post-production effects, and during dialogue heavy moments even the chirps and croaks of the jungle become a little too centrically delegated, but the sound track is pretty consistently lively and immersive. The score is often ridiculously overwrought, and quite obviously produced on a computer rather than using live instruments, but the sound kind of fits, and the mixers remember to make the score an integral part of the rear channels.

Vengeance

Extras


There aren’t many special features on this modestly priced little disc. The big extra is an electronic press kit, which has obviously been created to sell the film. It’s made up of interviews with the producer, director, and the DP (who explain the 2:35.1 framing, which must be pretty uncommon for Thai films), a narrated trailer, brief behind the scenes footage, and some brief before and after CG samples. The six-minute featurette does everything it can to make Vengeance sound like the downright most exciting film ever made in the history of the world. This is followed by a music video/trailer (really cheap), and trailers for Vengeance and the other BCI Thai Blu-ray release, The Tiger Blade.

Overall


The third act’s hard horror elements come a little out of nowhere, and then come to a rather abrupt and confounding end, but Vengeance is better than many films of its ilk, and defiantly fun to watch. This Blu-ray disc looks consistently good, sometimes even great, and the Dolby Digital 5.1 Thai track is bombastic enough to make most monster movie hybrid fans happy.

* Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.


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