THE PROTECTOR 2
*** (out of 5)
May 2, 2014
Tony Jaa as KHAM
RZA as LC
Phetthai Vongkumlao as MARK
Jija Yanin as PING PING
Marrese Crump as NO. 2
Rhatha Phongam as NO. 20
Theerada Kittisiriprasert as SUE SUE
Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
While I do appreciate a good martial arts movie, I am not a die-hard fan. However, I’ve seen enough movies outside of the American mainstream to realize that Tony Jaa is one of the best martial arts action stars in the business.
After making the “Ong Bak” movies, it was clear that Jaa was on his way to becoming the Thai version of Bruce Lee, managing a certain degree of cross-over status as an action star. Honestly, I’m still a little surprised that Hollywood hasn’t managed to get this guy his own series of action films like they did with Jackie Chan and Jet Li in the 1990s.
I first took notice of Jaa in “The Protector” almost ten years ago. I found that film to be more thrilling and honest than “The Raid: Redemption” years later when it seemed to blow the head off martial arts imports. One only needs to look at the epic stairway fight in “The Protector” to realize its superiority in long-form action.
Almost ten years later, Jaa is starring in “The Protector 2,” and it is a very different movie in many respects. This film follows Kham (Jaa) as he is caring for his prized and sacred elephant. One day, a trader tries to buy the animal. Of course, Kham refuses, and this results in the trader being killed and the elephant being kidnapped anyway (or elephantnapped, I suppose). Kham starts to track down his four-legged friend, and in the process he stumbles onto a terrorist plot at the hands of the evil crime lord LC (RZA).
I give the filmmakers credit in the sense that they made “The Protector 2” a much bigger movie than the first one. They also went out of their way to not rehash the same story or action sequences. There isn’t a scene as thrilling as the stairway walk-up from “The Protector,” but the filmmakers get an A for effort.
At times, the action can get too ambitious, which might result from the production reaching a bit too high. This film was shot in 3D (even though few audiences here in the states are going to see it that way). This lent itself to bigger explosions, bigger set pieces and bigger effects. Unfortunately, that takes away some of the charm of Jaa’s raw martial arts power.
What makes a modern martial arts film look impressive is when the stunts and effects are practical and real. There’s a bit too much digital manipulation of the scenes with explosions and cars being flipped over. This probably looks cool in 3D, but the animation isn’t quite up to snuff to make it pop off the 2D screen.
I did enjoy seeing RZA in this film, as he worked on the soundtrack for the original movie. Even though he’s not a good actor, he has a fun albeit cheesy screen presence, and his love for the violent exploitation film is something I can get behind. Of course, seeing him in so many movies lately makes me wonder if he’s even doing music any more.
This isn’t a perfect movie, and it’s not as strong as the original. However, as a follow-up, it’s still a fun ride, proving once again that Tony Jaa is still a formidable force in martial arts cinema. Get on this guy soon, Hollywood.