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The Protector (2005)

The Protector (2005)

Released: 2005
Genre: action, crime, drama, Movie
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Starring: Xing Jin, Nathan Jones, Tony Jaa,,
Run time: 111 min
IMDb: 7.1/10
Country: Thailand

Synopsis

Storyline:
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.
Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
User Reviews: The Jatalangkabaht people are proud villagers who live as one with the elephants. Kham and his father look after the mighty Por Yai and the baby Korn and, when they learn of a royal elephant inspection, decide to travel to the city to take part. However the two elephants are taken and Kham’s father shot. One fight later, Kham learns that the elephants have been taken to Sydney, Australia. Kham travels to Australia to recover his elephants – a path that brings him into the lives of police officer Mark, call girl Pla and crime boss Madame Rose.

I’m not entirely sure why this flopped because, like Ong Bak, although everyone knows the plot and acting will generally be weak, few will be in the cinema for anything other than impressive action. Of course Warrior King delivers this but I was also reasonably impressed by how the other factors had improved to a certain degree. The narrative is still a weak excuse for lots of people to get kicked in the head and there are still lots of scenes that don’t seem to make sense and, well, just happen. However the film does feel a little bit more professional; touches of humour such as the comment about pirate DVD’s for example. Of course none of this means that the plot is any good but at least it is better than previous. Perhaps it is not PC to say it, but the use of English with Thai helps as well – I find the latter a very ugly language and the way it is scaled back does make it more accessible to a western audience.

The lack of a really engaging plot does rather mean that the action exists as a separate entity and is not part of a gripping total film – the temple fights being a good example as they are more like baddies in a video game than a film. Of course with action this good it doesn’t really matter and you will still find yourself gasping at some of the violent kicks. Some of it is a little overdone (the rollerblading bit was all a bit daft) but some is surprisingly well done. There is a continuous tracking shot that moves up several floors and encompasses many individual fights that I thought was stunning and must have been so difficult to get right. Jaa’s skills are undeniable and he is helped by the way his character is given more anger to work with and isn’t a "naïve country boy" to the degree he was in Ong-bak. He still isn’t a great actor but he is getting better at least in his native tongue. Wongkamlao has less to do here but his English is good and he comes off well. Khongmalai is a good addition as she is natural and very easy on the eye (although I did feel a bit cheapened by her gratuitous mud bath scene). Xing’s Rose isn’t great but De Montemas has a bit more menace (shame his character is so poor), while Nguyen is generally a good turn.

Overall then this is not a great film because of the weaknesses in the plotting and some reasonably average acting turns. However it is a marked improvement on Ong-bak in these areas and should be a bit more accessible as a result. The action suffers from being cut off from the narrative but is still very enjoyable for what it is. Fans of the genre should love it.