With Ong Bak I did not mind suspending my disbelief that the movie was about a young man searching for the stolen head from his village’s prized statue. The story was simple but it worked, and the violence was warranted. However, when The Protector steals virtually the same storyline and gives us unnecessary and massive fight scene after fight scene as it becomes increasingly absurd.
The film is about a young Thai man who finds his father dead and learns that the killers have stolen his family’s elephants and left for Australia. It is at this point that star Tony Jaa becomes a vigilante killer as opposed to the caring savior he played in Ong Bak.
The Protector is an absolute mess of a film. Yeah, Tony Jaa is phenomenal in the fight scenes, but several of them we have already seen online since we first learned of the film when it was known only in its Thai form as Tom Yum Goong. Aside from the action the story is miserably bad as characters are tossed in and out of the film as if it was a tennis match of stupidity.
I did not get to see the film in its original form but I have to assume the first edit worked somewhat better than this one, and why is it that we must be forced to watch English dubs of films as opposed to just reading subtitles. English dubs are so distracting it is not even worth the effort. As for the editing the first example of shotty film production can be found at the very beginning of the film as Tony Jaa’s character Kham is trying to get out of Thailand to get to Australia. However, before he goes he must first send a message to those that double-crossed him and his family.
Once he has dispensed of the baddies, or at least he thinks he has dispensed of them all, he makes his getaway in a speedboat only to learn that about 25 other baddies remain and are chasing after him in boats. Once all of them seem to magically crash he has to avoid a helicopter that has joined the fight. Fortunately there is an answer for that… fade to black… “Two Weeks Later in Australia” the screen reads, or something like that. It might have been two days or one week, I can’t remember, all I remember is the audience howling with laughter as our hero is magically transported out of Thailand, and it was not the only time that happened. All you can do is laugh when some man out for vengeance just runs around yelling at people, “Where are my elephants?” in the middle of Sydney, Australia? It really is funny.
Obviously the draw here is not the story though, it is to see Tony Jaa kicking much ass, which he does, but the setting he does the ass kicking is an afterthought.
One spot he kicks the shit out of about 50 guys in a warehouse, several of them on BMX bikes, rollerblades, dirt bikes, ATVs and then some on foot. The real kicker is that they attack him with fluorescent light bulbs. What? Do those really hurt? Apparently not as he takes about 10 whacks to the dome and then proceeds on a bone-breaking rampage.
Another fight happens inside a burning chapel against some dude that break-dance fights, Zoolander style, a random guy with weapons and a big white dude that you will also see in Jet Li’s Fearless, and once he gets beat down, then and only then do his friends save him. Then comes a battle up a spiral staircase that looked like a 15 minute fight sequence as a one-shot, there must have been some edits that I was too blinded to notice, but it was actually sort of cool. Then comes the fight with a bunch of fellas who come at him one at a time only to have a variety of bones broken in a variety of ways. There are couple other fights but it really does get to be silly, especially when the CGI kicks in… Man, that is when it becomes a real “what the fuck?” moment. (NOTE: To watch a lot of the fight scenes go here and select from the Fight Reel clips)
A couple of times Kham has visions of the past and one of them is a CGI battle with elephants, some warriors from the dead and only God knows what else, but it is in CGI and it is nothing more than distracting.
Perhaps The Protector was cut up for an English speaking audience by The Weinstein Co. or it was just plain bad to begin with, either way this is an atrocious film that not even Jaa’s talents can save. Granted Jaa is not exactly a whiz in front of the camera at expressing emotion, scowls seem to be the flavor of the day, but someone needs to grab hold of this kid and tell him to grab a nice Hollywood role. Jet Li snagged a nice part in Lethal Weapon 4 and now look at him. More mainstream audiences need a glimpse of Jaa and he is going to be a star.