Saturday, July 05, 2008

Movies: The Protector

Here's a few things you'll see in "The Protector" (AKA "Tom-Yum-Goong") that you probably won't see anywhere else:

1. A crack team of assassins composed entirely of extreme sports athletes who rollerblade and BMX their way into battle.

2. A transsexual crime boss who fights with a whip and corset.

3. A baby elephant being thrown through the air by a wrestler.

And so it goes. "The Protector" is a martial arts film that revels in its own absurdity at points, including the hilarious aftermath of an extended fight scene against dozens of mooks. Tony Jaa's fighting choreography combines no-nonsense joint-breaking with high-flying acrobatics in almost every scene. If the average kung-fu flick is concerned with making sure ample amounts of dust fly up with every punch, Jaa's fighting is all about the simulated snap of broken bones.

There isn't much of a plot here, unfortunately. Jaa plays a young modern day Thai warrior entrusted with protecting a couple of beloved elephants that fall into the wrong hands. By the end of the movie, he's tussled with pretty much everyone in Sydney, Australia in his quest to retake the elephants. It's all played pretty straight, with flashes of camp laced throughout.

Okay, so the actual story makes "Enter the Dragon" look like "Citizen Kane," but there are a lot of good stunts here. The fight choreography overall is a bit simpler than the Hong Kong masters. Some of the fights are gloriously over-the-top, though, like when Jaa duels with fighters versed in capoeira, wushu, and wrestling. If you're in the mood for something light but action-packed, you could do a lot worse.

Rating: 6/10


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