The Protector is a decent movie, or at least I imagine it would be as an introduction to Tony Jaa.  A Thai martial arts flick starring Jaa, the film mostly takes place in Australia (presumably to fit in with the intention to market it in the U.S.,  and relates the story of…well…some bad guys steal an elephant and Tony Jaa has to go beat the tar out of them in order to retrieve his pachyderm.  Bear with me for a second, but the problem with the film, in my mind, was its struggle to have a coherent, somewhat intricate plot.  Because, let’s face it, martial arts movies don’t particularly need a twisty plot.  Give me someone awesome (e.g. Bruce Lee), and a reason, even of the flimsiest order, this someone awesome has for violence (e.g. a martial arts tournament, revenge for the death of a family member, or preferably both).  That’s it.

Anyway, and I’m guessing it is because The Protector was always, as far as I can tell, intended to be a statement that Thai movies could play in this country, it was decided to devote a significant chunk of time to a subplots such as the struggle within a crime family for power, police corruption, and something rather bizarre I don’t want to spoil, I’ll just say it was reminiscent of a scene from The Freshman (1990 version).  Oh, and elephants.  Lots with the elephants.  Somehow, though, no real love interest.  And, of course, since it was a martial arts movie, it all was terribly hokey.  And took away from the awesomeness that is Tony Jaa.

The martial arts were decent, or if you’ve never seen Tony Jaa, awesome.  The climactic battle was fun, but slightly disappointing.  There’s a cool tracking shot.  My favorite scene though, was an utterly ridiculous battle pitting Jaa against dozens of henchmen, which devolves into him taking roughly a half second against each one, breaking some bone/joint/tendon/ligament in increasingly cruel ways.  If you have anything like the sensibilities of a red-blooded male, you’ll laugh with glee at the insanity of it all.

As I’ve hinted at, I found The Protector a huge step back from Ong Bak.  Which may be the most jaw-dropping movie I’ve ever seen.  I dare you not to be awed by the first ten minutes.  And every ten minutes after that.

Trailer after the jump.  Oh, and be sure to check out the imdb trivia for at least one surprise.