There are so many different elements that are taken into consideration when writing a critical analysis of a film. For each reviewer, the importance of these different essentials (like story, plot, direction, editing, etc.) varies but for the most part, each critic usually covers the necessary basis. For a film like The Protector (originally titled Tom Yum Goong), it’s not exactly hard to figure what the filmmakers want you to focus on – star Tony Jaa’s insane fighting abilities. Sadly, the greatness of his movements are drowned by an ocean of bad editing, terrible dubbing, disorienting action sequences, and repetitive fight sequences that feel as if they were copied straight from a side-scrolling videogame like Streets of Rage.
Kham (Jaa) has sworn his life to protect a group of elephants from harm. In his world, elephants are a grandiose sort of animal and are worshipped for their skill in wars fought long ago. He has trained his entire life to keep these animals safe but when an Asian gang, headed by Madame Rose (Xing Jing), shoots his uncle and takes a baby elephant with its mother, Kham embarks on a quest to Australia to get them back and take revenge.
But you’re not watching this film for its incredibly lame plot. You’re here to see Tony Jaa jump five feet in the air to give various foot soldiers a knee to the face. Or to see him climb up a glass wall to escape a man chasing him with an ATV vehicle. At first, these fight scenes are awe-inspiring. One sequence in particular follows him up quite a few floors of the inside of a building, for almost five uninterrupted minutes, fighting his way to the top without skipping a beat. It’s the most amazing sequence of the film. After that, however, these sequences grow tired. The spontaneity of action suddenly feels rehearsed and monotonous.
The rest of the film not focused on Jaa’s athletic talents is cut together is the worst sort of way. Scene after scene is fashioned together in the most confusing (read that as meaning ‘dull’) fashion, like a 500-piece jigsaw puzzle missing half the pieces. It’s hard to say if these editing problems are the victims of Americanization as countless other Asian imports before it. And why would a studio choose to dub only three-fourths of a film? Was it originally intended to be this way? Those who have seen this film via imported DVDs may have the answer to such questions.
The rest of us, who are only exposed to this release via The Weinstein Company, will probably never know. Regardless, Tony Jaa is an action force to be reckoned with. He deserves better than this and we as an audience deserve to see him doing better things. For now though, stay home and watch Ong-Bak instead.