Jan 20, 2009

The Protector

Note: For Future Reference, This Review Covers the Tom-Yum-Goong Feature, Not the Heavily Cut American Version.

With the relatively small splurge of Dragon Dynasty titles being examined and reviewed, I turn my attention to one of the films that had me hyped for some time. I remember watching promo videos for The Protector on YouTube and feeling incredibly throttled, past adrenaline and Internet hype. The same synthetic boost has recrudesced in the form of a promo reel that first appeared on Twitch film. The film is Ong Bak 2 and this time Tony Jaa has moved past Pinkaew to further his name and drop the lame excuse of a lacking story. Although Pinkaew embraced the feud between the debut director Tony Jaa, even he should admire the amount of martial arts diversity that Jaa is dabbling in.

Animal companionship is a wonderful thing. I fondly recall one of my personal favorite retro video games for the Nintendo Entertainment System. The title was Blaster Master and much like The Protector, you star as a warrior on a mission to retrieve an animal very dear to you. I reminisce constantly on the ambient electronic key shifts that make up the Blaster Master opening score. The plot revolves around a Boy and his frog, who happens to jump onto a power generator and feeds off radiation thus grows to an enormous size and burrows into the ground. Once you enter the chasm, you find a futuristic space-tank waiting for you. While The Protector doesn't travel into the realms of the unreal, the source has a similar heart.

Currently, Tony Jaa has subjectively been placed on a high-seated pedestal for me. While my personal love for martial arts stretches from the glories of the chambers of Shaolin and the merciless form of Wu-Tang, to Donnie Yen and Sammo Hung, that ultimately ends in guilty pleasures of Wesley Snipes in the original Blade film; I'd like to think I have a diverse taste. Hell, combat in general enthralls me. I wouldn't be considered a necessarily violent person but I won't deny vicious thoughts. Tony Jaa to me is that angry rock music teenagers listen to to extinguish their angst temporarily. But for me, Tony Jaa just makes me want to kick ass even more.

Reflecting his culture & religion as painfully demonstrated in Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior, Jaa tramples his opponents while brazenly wearing and promoting symbols of his culture. He makes his traditions "cool" and "badass" by beating thugs to death with face-cracking Muay Thai moves that prove daunting even to a 6'7 man child. The effort in which he provides do defeat wave after wave can articulately recall to the side-scrolling beat-em-up series of Streets of Rage for the Sega Genesis. Now that I ponder on the thought, much of Tony Jaa's The Protector can be compared to old-school video games. Truth be told, The Protector is a step up from Ong-Bak in several distinguishable categories. For one, the fighting is more extreme and more frequent. Tony Jaa is not a household name yet. For his own brand of self-product placement included in Ong-Bak, Jaa would continuously do over-the-top stunts in slow motion just to wow you. They don't fit in with the background really but watch a man with flaming legs do intense acrobatics is a very accommodating thing.

Following by foot is the orchestrated score created by none other than the hip hop guru, The RZA. For those of you who aren't blissfully educated in the subcultures of rap, the RZA is the creator of the enamorous Wu-Tang Clan and an accomplished proprietor of most Asian cinema related releases. Other than scoring martial arts films and black-themed samurai cartoons (Afro Samurai), the RZA grants many lost kung-fu films DVD releases in several box sets and bargain bin collections. For this I am eternally grateful. Sides from that, he appears in several films as a sickeningly thin black power character, ala Derailed. His performance along with Vincent Cassel's makes the film. Back to the subject of the score, other than a few popping rhythmic tunes, the rest is everyday culture-infused squabble that only bares a soul to prevent distraction.

The Protector features an incredibly awkward plot point of a Thai man's love for his elephants. Given the raw Lion King treatment, The Protector features seldom emotional depth and is only accentuated by the DVD cover art showing several explosions and a bleeding shirtless man. Had they attempted to create a tender backdrop to the disc, the film would have fallen flat on its face. Expect nothing other than pleasureful violence and Tony Jaa breaking over 50 henchmen in half. The Protector is as big of an action wet dream as it sounds.



Quint-R said...

I really prefer the Tom-Yum-Goong version of this to the Protector. Whats with RZA's lame-ass music in this?

thebonebreaker said...

Excellent Review mAQ!

I love the 5-minute bone-breaking sequence in this film! :-)