In the tradition of classic martial arts movies, The Protector delivers the adequate amount of bone-crushing blows and introduces America to a new kung-fu master, Tony Jaa.
Of course, the plot is just an excuse to set up the fight scenes. In this case, it revolves around a Thai farmer and martial arts expert, Kham (Tony Jaa), who lives a peaceful existence, surrounded by a family of elephants he"s grown up with. When a ruthless gang kills Kham"s dad, pinches two of his beloved elephants and smuggles them to Sydney, Australia (to do god knows what with them), Kham immediately springs into ass-kicking mode and goes Down Under to get them back. Despite the help of Sergeant Mark (Petchthai Wongkamlao), a Thai policeman, and Pla (Bongkot Kongmalai), a Thai girl forced into modern day slavery, the going gets tough for our friend. But the moral of this story is if you steal a kung-fu master"s elephants, you WILL have your legs broken. Period.
Bruce Lee. Jackie Chan. Jet Li. And now Tony Jaa, a martial arts connoisseur from Thailand, whose debut in the Thai film Ong Bak put him on the map. The Thai fighter offers something slightly new to the genre, combining an ancient boxing art known as Muay Thai or the "Science of 8 Limbs" with expert sword fighting and gymnastics. It"s truly something to behold, especially since he does all the work. Even if he lacks Chan"s charm or Li"s intense dramatic skills, Jaa is poised to claim the crown as the new master of the chop-socky. The rest of the cast are merely window-dressing with one stand outMadam Rose (Xing Jing), the head of the international crime syndicate. She"s such a meeeean lady.
The Protector actually seems a bit nostalgic for the days of such Bruce Lee classics as Enter the Dragon and Fist of Fury. With a sparse storyline, really bad dialogue and dubbed lines, Protector fits right in. But that"s not what you"re seeing this movie for. It"s about the fighting, and director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong Bak) frames his muse in one highly choreographed, elaborate sequence after another. The best is probably in the lair of Madame Rose. Once Kham breaks inand discovers the fate of one of his elephantshe then becomes a one-man limb-breaking machine. Protector is rated R, not so much for blood and gore, but perhaps for the hundreds of times you hear bones being crunched. Ouch.
Hollywood.com rated this film 2 1/2 stars.