The Protector (Tom yum Goong) (Pinkaew, 2005)

When Tony Jaa gets mad, the bones of his enemies rightfully crack and crumble. In his latest Thai import The Protector, Jaa’s vengeance carries a heavy load, two heavy loads in particular. In search of his stolen pet elephants, epic daddy Por Yai and his charming baby Korhn, Jaa’s young fighter Kham must leave the countryside of Thailand for the urban obliviousness of Sydney where a group of smugglers, led by a striking he/she-wolf (or lady-boy for the locals) with a whip, have taken his prized pets for sale/consumption. Many battles ensue, some randomly and incoherently placed within the story; one between Jaa and a group of X-Game mercenaries on bikes and roller blades comes out of nowhere. But Jaa’s intentions remain obvious throughout; grand setups to display his martial arts prowess and agility, a la Jackie Chan, sadly without any of the wit, attention to character, or wink wink authority Chan brings to his early Hong Kong fare. Lack of coherence and silliness aside, The Protector rightfully bases Jaa’s quest in the arms, or tusks of his taken comrades, highlighting a beautiful urgency to defend the tradition of his ancestors and the giant beasts he’s come to love and respect. If only the damn capitalists of the west could understand such notions.


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