By Fred Topel | Image property of The Weinstein Company.
The Protector is a Jaa dropping extravaganza. I mean that both as a silly pun on Tony Jaa’s name and literally that Tony Jaa drops lots of bad guys in this movie. I can’t even decide what the coolest part is. It’s all awesome.
Movie Review: The Protector
The basic premise is Tony Jaa kicks ass, but specifically he plays Kham, a peaceful Thai entrusted with protecting the king’s elephants. When poachers take his trustees, Kham follows them to Australia for some Muay Thai retribution. They should advertise this as “Tony Jaa fights for PETA.”
The Protector ups the ante on Ong Bak by attempting different types of action scenes, more outrageous stunts and some heavy duty filmmaking. There’s about 15 minutes of downtime and 75 of pure action.
A speedboat chase causes more destruction than any reckless Arnold Schwarzenegger scene. Anything that can fall down does and anything that runs on fuel explodes.
A fight scene against a gang that includes X gamers on skates, bikes and boards forces Jaa to spring into Jackie Chan mode to dodge the speed demons while taking out the peons one by one. Tony Jaa is fast and furious weaving in and out of the obstacles in a warehouse while finding ways to turn his attackers strengths against them. And lots of glass breaks. They’re swinging fluorescent lighting rods.
One extended fight scene is shot in one continuous single take master as Kham goes up many levels of a massage parlor kicking ass. This is what Bruce Lee would have wanted for Game of Death. John Woo did something similar with guns, but this is Jaa and all his stunt performers executing perfect moves for five minutes straight.
The camerawork is stunning too. They choreographed the moves so that the camera falls back to show the big moves, but it’s always following someone to come back. They never just zoom in to catch up because they’re lagging behind. It all flows elegantly.
There’s plenty of pure one on one fighting too. Tony Jaa’s leg moves are amazing, as are all the different combinations he finds to attack with all his limbs. Sometimes he kicks out a high lamp just to show off, but it’s awesome. He’s Tony Jaa and he can kick that high! They should film Tony Jaa movies in 3D so you can see Tony fly right out at you.
The elephant action is limited to running. That’s probably all they could train the beasts to do.
Like the best Jackie Chan movies, the plot only loosely sets up the action. It’s like this happened, and then they fight. The cop and Kham kind of connect but only to lead to the next outrageous action sequence. Oh yeah, there was an Australian cop who gets caught up in a government conspiracy.
Jaa may not be at a point where he can cry on screen and make us really care about a missing elephant, but it’s such a small part of the film, it just seems like it’s good he’s trying to stretch, but never relenting on the intense action he’s created. He’s set up such a tough act to follow, god forbid there ever comes a time when a Tony Jaa movie doesn’t deliver.