Guilty Pleasures – The Protector

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The Protector - Tony Jaa -

In martial arts movies, there’s a lot to fight for. Love, honour and revenge to name but a few things. But only one movie had a protagonist fighting for something that he clearly valued a lot more than human life. Elephants.

In Bangkok, the young Kham was raised by his father in the jungle with elephants as members of their family. When his old elephant and the baby Kern are stolen by criminals, Kham finds that the animals were sent to Sidney. He travels to Australia, where he locates the baby elephant in a restaurant owned by the evil Madame Rose, the leader of an international Thai mafia. With the support of the efficient Thai sergeant Mark, who was involved in a conspiracy, Kham fights to rescue the animal from the mobsters.

Following on from some kickass success with Ong-Bak, and way before he went completely mental creating the sequels, Tony Jaa needed something different. The man had clearly proven that he had the physical chops to create action films with the best that the industry had to offer, as Ong-Bak was technically a 90 minute demo of Jaa setting his legs on fire and reenacting scenes from Super Street Fighter II Turbo.

So if Jaa had conquered the martial arts of man, he would become an elephant next. For Asian gangsters are a cowardly and superstitious lot.  Even though The Protector is known by the names of Tom Yum Goong, The Warrior King and Thai Dragon in other countries, it should have been called “Hey where’s my elephant!”.

Just watch the film and see for yourself. Kham’s father (Jaa) has been shot? Where’s my elephant?! There’s a gangster applying lightbulbs to his back? Where’s my elephant?! Kham is being chased by a lunatic on quad bike for no apparent reason? Where’s my elephant? There’s a restaurant filled with folks eating elephant? WHERE’S MY ELEPHANT?!

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It’s actually mental that this is the driving force behind the film, yet it works thanks to those incredible fight scenes. Who would have thought that elephant muay thai could be so effective. That’s the charm of this film, as the choreography on offer here manages to capture that raw feeling from Ong-Bak, but give it just the right amount of theatricality.

You’ve got a great progression of fighting in this movie. From the down and dirty Thailand fights, to the escalation in Australia that inlcudes an out of control warehose scene, a legendary battle up a staircase, a beautifully filmed monastery battle and Jaa introducing audiences to 50 ways to break a human arm, it’s all fantastically done.

But that final fight between Jaa and several rejected He-Man character designs? Simply radical, especially when he equips some elephant armour and gets +10 points to WTF badassitude. The Protector is the kind of film where the story is merely a bridge between fight scenes. And man, those scenes never disappoint.

WHERE’S MY ELEPHANT?!

Last Updated: July 10, 2013

Darryn Bonthuys

Word-slinger at Critical Hit. Inventor of the macho Swiss gym chocolate known as Testoblerone. That's...that's about it really.

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