You don’t mess with a man’s elephant, especially if that man is Thai martial artist Tony Jaa.
In The Protector 2, Jaa’s country bumpkin Kham goes in search of his beloved tusked “brother” Khon, who’s been snatched by a cabal of criminals led by a kingpin (RZA) who plans to use him in a political assassination plot.
The ensuing story turns out to be hopelessly convoluted and nonsensical, the ridiculousness matched by Jaa’s comical reactions during skirmishes, the pratfalls of cop Mark (Phetthai Vongkumlao), and the multiple instances in which bad guys on bikes clumsily drive off rooftops and bridges to their deaths.
Director Prachya Pinkaew’s hectic editing and breakneck pacing turns the action spastic, and his lack of interest in anything approaching coherent drama renders the proceedings one long showcase for its lead’s Muay Thai combat skills.
Luckily, those are considerable, with Jaa felling adversaries with an endless barrage of impressive flying elbow and knee blows that are often shot in slow motion amid cheesy CGI explosions.
Like The Raid 2, it’s a nonstop series of prolonged, brutal set pieces, except that this superior film eschews repugnant gore for a sly goofiness that makes Jaa come across like a real-life Looney Tunes character.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on April 30, 2014