Sunday, July 28, 2013

Tom yum goong (The Protector) (2005)

Seen: On dvd on our projector set-up, rented from Hollywood Express in Cambridge.

I don't remember how I came across it but somehow I saw the quote "You killed my father, and you stole my elephant!" and that pretty much inflamed my desire to see The Protector, another offering from the Prachya Pinkaew/Tony Jaa team. The film follows young fighter Kham (Jaa), who raises elephants for Thai royalty and has been trained in martial arts so he can protect them from predators. But he fails in his duty, and his two prize elephants are stolen and his father is killed all in one day. He travels to Australia to reclaim his animals from the powerful Thai criminals who took them, going up against various skilled fighters and gang assassins to get to their leader. An unorthodox Sydney cop (Petchtai Wongkamlao) helps him out despite corruption in his own office.

So this movie is pretty ridiculous, and shoddily made, and a little weird, but sort of endearing in its own way. A lot of it is Tony Jaa running around Sydney in his cute red ascot yelling about his elephants, which is silly, but then he starts beating the shit out of everyone he sees and I am definitely into that. The fight scenes are awesome, with Jaa barreling his way through large groups of angry grunts, never stopping more than he has to. I loved the range of villains Jaa goes up against, especially the capoeira fighter Lateef Crowder and wushu fighter Jon Foo. Ballet dancer Xing Jing is ferocious as the evil elephant-killer Madame Rose, dressed in fashionable outfits and fighting with a deadly whip all Catwoman-style. Apparently there was a whole subplot about her character being transgender (as the actress actually is) that was cut out of the American version, though I'm not sure why.

The fights are great, but that's kind of the only really good thing about this movie. The story doesn't make much sense, the script is cheesy and uneven, and the production isn't exactly top quality (the dubbed-over English is the biggest distraction). Plus I couldn't tell if it was taking itself seriously or not. But luckily, a good portion of the overall film is just radical fight sequences, and Tony Jaa alternating between his adorable ascot/jacket combo or bloody shirtlessness. And that's all ok.

3.5/5

Pair This Movie With: Ah I don't know man, I guess Ong-bak.

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