"You killed my father," Tony Jaa shouts at the evil villainess of The Protector. He then pauses for dramatic measure, because here comes the really important part: "And you stole my elephant!"
Damn straight, Tony! That bitch did steal your elephant, and her henchmen killed your dad! Kick her ass!
It's an all too common story these days: Boy grows up in Thailand, and is best friends with an adorable baby elephant. Elephant gets stolen... to be made into a fancy meal for rich people... in Australia! Luckily, boy knows Muay Thai martial arts, so he journeys to Australia to save his pachyderm pal. Boy runs into a lot of inept henchmen, but thanks to his Muay Thai skillz, boy easily and awesomely kicks/punches/ elbows/knees all their faces in. And it's all done to a soundtrack from The RZA. Always, always, always. Have you no imagination, you makers of modern cinema? It is always the same story.
But The Protector—Tony Jaa's follow up to last year's jaw-dropping Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior—isn't about plot. It's about Jaa kicking as much ass as humanly possible. Watching the 5' 8", 30-year-old Jaa—who does all his own stunts, and eschews wirework and CG—launch himself off walls, twist through foes, flip across the ground, and literally fly through the air before delivering a blazingly fast kick or punch is as astounding as it was in Ong-Bak. (Keep an eye out for director Prachya Pinkaew's astonishing four-minute-long steadicam shot, in which Jaa takes out an entire building of bad guys.)
Tony Jaa shouts something else in The Protector: "Where's my elephant!?" He yells that about 500 times throughout the film, with varying degrees of anger. Well, yeah, of course Tony finds his elephant. And yes, his super rad elephant even shakes some shit up in a fight sequence! But mostly, The Protector is about Jaa, a hero who flies around and beats the shit out of evil assholes who steal elephants. Thank you, Tony Jaa. The world needs more people like you. Or, at the very least, more movies like this one.