Video: **** 1/2
Extras: Zero stars
Article first published as Blu-ray Review: Panna Rittikrai’s ‘Vengeance of an Assassin’ on Blogcritics.
The name Panna Rittikrai may not ring a bell to action fans, but I’m sure Tony Jaa does. While Vengeance of an Assassin may not feature Jaa, director Rittikrai makes sure you know you’re watching one of his movies — who also brought us Ong Bak 2 and 3. It certainly helps that the late Rittikrai was the martial arts/stunt choreographer on countless Thai action films. Filled with the most nonsensical plot you could muster, at least in Rittikrai’s final film, he manages to wear some of his influences on his sleeve — mainly John Woo’s classics Hard Boiled or The Killer, and Gareth Evans’ Raid films. Vengeance of an Assassin may not be a new action classic, but you’ll love the hell out of every minute of it. And it’s available now on Blu-ray from Well Go USA.
While some movies get the short end of the stick in the visual department when crammed onto a 25GB disc, Vengeance of an Assassin looks pretty spectacular. Clearly filmed digitally, there’s not a speck of grain to be found, and only a few seconds of shots feature any kind of noise. Bright and colorful, this is not the typical look for a balls-out action flick since the action mainly takes place out in bright sunlight. Something that definitely adds to the authenticity of the choreography. Detail is razor sharp with no aliasing, and there’s only a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it instance of banding. I literally had to backup the scene to make sure I really saw it. This is one top-notch transfer.
To go along with the video quality, the Thai 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is loud, aggressive, and takes no prisoners. For a possibly low-budget foreign film, this sounds like a million bucks. Dialogue is clear and refined, never getting drowned out, no matter what kind of craziness is happening onscreen. Bass is wall rattling with plenty of deep LFE for every bomb, face punch, or landing kick. Surrounds are always in full force with plenty of directionality keeping the frenetic action circling around you nearly the whole runtime. The English subtitles could have used some editing with character names not matching the credits, and plenty of grammatical errors make for some unintentional laughs. Sadly, there are no special features.
Vengeance of an Assassin is definitely check your brain at the door entertainment, but any hardcore action fan will find plenty to love. I wasn’t expecting much, as the highlights to Rittikrai’s previous efforts were obviously watching Jaa in action. But his cast makes full use of their bodies, giving everything they’ve got to the action scenes. And speaking of which, you won’t walk away unsatisfied. Everything and anything is used as a weapon. If you didn’t know how much deadly use you could get out of a broken chicken bone, wait until you see what happens when a Jeep, a helicopter, and a train get into a fight. You’ve got to see it to believe it. Featuring one of the most surprisingly near-perfect transfers you’re likely to find outside a Hollywood blockbuster and an audio track that’ll wake the neighbors, Vengeance of an Assassin only winds up a disappointment with the final scene setting up the sequel Rittikrai will never get to make. Fortunately for us, his final film is one he can be proud of, even if for action aficionados only.