When I first heard about the new film The Protector, all I could think of was one scene from the previews: Tony Jaa runs up a glass wall, and all you can hear are his sneakers squeaking against the glass. That scene alone made me want to check this one out.
But, I didn’t know anything else about The Protector, really. All I knew was this was another “Quentin Tarantino presents” film (like Iron Monkey) and it starred a newcomer to the martial arts scene, Tony Jaa. Since I hadn’t heard good or bad things about the film, I decided to wait until it hit DVD to check it out.
Tony Jaa, newcomer to the movie scene that he is, brings with him a whole new style of fighting: Muay Thai Kickboxing. It’s a whole different feel to fighting, and he’s really really good at it. It’s fun to watch him kicking butts and taking names…but unfortunately, that’s all The Protector really is.
While it has a decent lead-in, and rescuing elephants is a worthy cause, that’s completely lost in most of the scenes of The Protector. Wherever Jaa goes, he gets in a fight. Period. Doesn’t matter how many enemies there are, or what they’re armed with, he’s constantly on the attack. There is no tension build-up whatsoever, as nothing even slows this guy down. Kick him, punch him, stab him…he’ll shrug it off and keep going. Maybe that’s the way he’s supposed to act, but it comes off as a bit odd. After all, he’s not invincible…is he?
Most viewers won’t be able to tell…thanks to the cheesy dialogue in The Protector. Every time anyone opens their mouth in this film, it’s just more cheese spewing forth. Whether it’s in Thai or dubbed English, it amounts to the same thing – the writer should never work again. Even old Stallone movies have better dialogue than this! Some people will say that dialogue doesn’t matter in martial arts movies. I once thought so too…but not anymore. This was that bad.
The martial arts are impressive, more so when you consider Tony Jaa (just like one of his martial arts action star predecessors, Jackie Chan) doesn’t use any stunt doubles or wires. Tony is able to twist and move his body in ways that would make a contortionist envious. Whether he’s jumping on someone through a window, kicking out a streetlight from a standing position or running up the aforementioned glass wall with a 4-wheeler on his heels, he does it all without even seeming to break a sweat. It’s crazy…and incredibly impressive.
With it’s plot lost among the kicks and punches for most of the film, The Protector seems more like an out-of-control music video than a film. It’s too bad, as Tony Jaa definitely has the potential to wreak havoc on the martial arts-loving American public. Hopefully, this gets his foot in the door, and his career – complete with language coaches and acting lessons – will only keep getting better.
For now, though, The Protector is only worth watching if you’re a huge martial arts fan…and then it might be best if you kept it on mute.