Monday, February 12, 2007

Where's My Elephant!

I took The Protector with me when I went up to PA last week and watched it in the hotel room. This was a movie I had seen trailers for on TV a good while ago and thought the brief 30 seconds of action sequences and stunts I was shown looked intriguing. I'm a sucker for well done martial arts movies (Fist of Legend was very good in my opinion). Since The Protector was released here in the states, I foolishly thought this was the Hollywood machine stealing another Asian actor to exploit for a typical action movie (much like they've done with Jackie Chan and Jet Li). Boy was I wrong. Instead this was Quentin Tarantino taking a movie made overseas, repackaging it and then and releasing it over here.

I'm really not sure how to describe the actual movie. It's basically nothing more than a showcase vehicle for Tony Jaa's impressive moves. Never heard of him? I hadn't either, but my guess is you will eventually. He's good. Very good. And from what I could tell there were no CGI enhancements or stuntmen, it was all him. And there was a lot of action. It was a like a porn film of martial arts movie. And by that I mean there was a plot, but only perfunctory oral service is occasionally paid to it as the main point of the film is pure unadulterated action. The plot is a mostly martial arts standard, the father of Kham (the main character) gets killed and Kham goes on a quest for vengeance. The movie does set itself apart from the crowd in one sense. In most movies you might hear the main character scream "You killed my father!" at some point. That's good enough for standard action films, and if this was Princess Bride, you might get that line followed by "Prepare to die!" But in this movie, you get the line "You killed my father and stole my elephant!" I kid you not.

The main plot (if you can really call it that) involves recovering a stolen elephant (the scenes of Kham walking through the streets of Sydney with an elephant in tow while no one apparently notices the elephant are just surreal). As I said, plot takes a back seat to action here, so when 30 street rats on roller blades and bikes just show up at a warehouse from all over the city to try and impose a beat down on Kham because an alarm was set off from a warehouse by one of the bad guys, you just sort of go with it. And of course for the most part the bad guys follow the obligatory "there's thirty of us and one of him, so let's rush him one at a time" mentality. There's one scene where Kham gets rushed by no fewer than 50 guys, each one coming one at a time as Kham inflicts one bone crushing move after another. I have to assume that scene was suppose to be somewhat for comedic effect since you sort of get the idea after the first twenty guys, but then they just keep having more guys stream into the room (all wearing the same non-descript G-Man type outfits).

The highlight of the film for me was the choreographing of the fight scene in the temple with about an inch of water on the floor. That combined with the judicious use of slow motion during the fight were pure poetry in motion. The film also contains what appeared to be one of the longest continuous shot fight scenes I've ever scene as Kham makes his way up four stories of a building (I'm not completely convinced they didn't actually put several scenes together, although if they did, they managed to make it look like they didn't). All in all, this film is pure eye candy (did I mention the 'plot' was recovering a stolen elephant?), but it's very well done eye candy. It's not going to be for everyone, and it's definitely not going to win any acting awards, but if you like martial arts fight scenes, you might want to give this a look.

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