Ah, the classic tale of a man and his elephant. The Protector (Tom yum goong) stars Tony Jaa (Ong Bak) as Kham, the latest in a hereditary line of royal elephant protectors. When two of his elephants are stolen and his father killed, he travels to Australia to track down the men responsible and bring them to justice, but encounters plenty of resistance along the way.
To get to the point, The Protector is one of the cheesiest, dumbest and poorly-edited action film I've seen in years. While not quite as ludicrous as Crank, which I watched last week, The Protector thrives on a pointless story that lacks any sense of excitement or intrigue. The movie, as you might expect, is just a string of action scenes with a thinly developed plot and some downright crappy editing. It doesn't take a film student to realize just how poorly put together this film is. The movie skips from one scene to the next with such a jarring matter that it looks like a chimpanzee glued together reels of film with its feces. Action scenes end without any sense of resolution, and Kham often gets from one location to another without any real explanation.
Strangely enough, the movie is presented by Quentin Tarantino, a man who has one of the best eyes for editing in the industry. Obviously Tarantino didn't have anything to do with the production of this film, but other than to make a buck I don't see why he would plaster his name to a piece of crap like this.
As for Jaa, he is better here than he was in Ong Bak, where I complained of his screechy, irritating voice. Luckily, he doesn't talk very much in this movie, but I'm still not convinced he is action star material. He does have some good fighting skills, but his screen presence does not even compare to some of his more popular competitors. Where Bruce Lee always looked like he could and would kick some ass, Jet Li scares the crap out of people and Jackie Chan makes the most of his stunts in entertaining ways, Jaa has yet to find a style that really works for him. He doesn't intimidate on screen, and while you can sense that he wants to be like Chan in the way that the set and props (according to IMDB, Chan is his idol), he hasn't figured out how to make his fighting sequences very entertaining.
The action scenes, while decent at times, aren't especially exciting, and even though Jaa moves at a fast pace, the sequences seem long and drawn out. One scene where Jaa climbs five levels of stairs and beats up people along the way had the potential to be excellent, but director Prachya Pinkaew failed to up the intensity. The camera hangs back and keeps the audience from becoming engaged. Other fight sequences come off as just goofy (the bad guy rings a bell and a bunch of extreme skaters and motorcyclists show up out of nowhere), and others as bland. The only one that shows some promise is a sequence near the end where Jaa breaks the arms or legs of about fifty men in a row. It is quite entertaining in a very painful way.
For those who absolutely love martial arts movies, The Protector has its moments, but its poor editing and lame story barely gets it out of "disaster" territory. Protect yourself: don't watch this movie.
Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.
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