Thursday, January 20, 2011

Popcorn On - The Protector

For this first installment of Popcorn On, I wanted to talk about one of my favorite Martial Arts films, The Protector (Also known as Tom-Yum-Goong).  Namely because the amount of badassery it contains is fairly unfathomable, which initially made me a bit wary to try and write about it without just linking to youtube clips (which I'm still going to do) and just spoiling the whole thing.  (Which I won't do, not that there's much of a plot to spoil, anyways.  I mean, it's a Martial Arts movie.)

I will say, which is a very very minor spoiler, that The Protector isn't exactly the best name for the movie.  Kham (Tony Jaa) is a protector of sorts, as he's the last of a long line of warriors who were in charge of guarding the King of Thailand's war elephants.  But the fact is, the two elephants, a mother and baby, he's charged with guarding get captured within the first fifteen or so minutes of the movie and the rest is him trying to get them back, not only because it's his job, but because he more or less grew up at the same time as the baby elephant, so it's kind of a pet of sorts to him, or something equally cared for.  If anything, I believe the new title was a subtle nod to Jackie Chan, whom Tony Jaa really admires.  (Jackie Chan starred in a movie also called The Protector, you see.)

As I said, rather quickly into the film, Kham's elephants are captured by poachers and what follows is one man's badass journey of ass-kicking, shit-ruining combat to find out just who are responsible and to make them p- er, get his charges back.  The journey spans a number of locations and the fights get more and more intense with each locale as he gets closer and closer to the heart of this Poaching operation.  The story stays fairly straight-forward throughout, which is welcome, even if the characters don't seem to match in that aspect.

Throughout the film, a number of opponents with rather varied styles of fighting get put up to Tony Jaa whose own altered form of Muay Thai (the form roughly translates to "Elephant Boxing", though focuses more on Captures and Incapacitation rather than striking) offer quite a nice variety, even though Jaa's Muay Thai never wears out its welcome and barely ever repeats itself.  Capoeira, Wushu, an improvised form of Mounted Combat (You'll just have to watch the movie for this one), Wrestling (Not olympic style, but not the type you really watch on TV either) as well as a few weapon styles that I can't really think of at the moment.

One of the things about the movie that I have to impress upon you is the sheer impressive choreography the movie has without relying on dreadful Wire-fu.  One of the best examples of this is simply referred to as the Continuous Fight Scene, in which Kham ascends a Restaurant/hotel type of building, set up as a tower while fighting groups of people the entire time.  The scene is just under 4 minutes long, but it was shot in whole, as a single take, and took five takes (I believe) before it was, from start-to-finish successful.  There's also a fight scene directly after it as Kham takes on Johnny, the man he believes has his elephants.

There are a few mild spoilers towards the end of the video (If you speak Thai, I guess, there's no subtitles in this video for some reason) as they speak, and then after the fight is over, but again, it's a Martial Arts movie; you don't really have to expect much.  If you just want to see the scene in question, you can stop it around the 3:50 mark, where Kham storms through the door of the upper floor.

It's hard to say how many impressive scenes are in the film, but there's at least a few more on the same level as that one, which I won't link because I want you to watch the movie instead of just the really really good parts here.  I can honestly assure you that if Martial Arts films are something you like (as in, you can tolerate the generally weak storylines that lead to a bunch of people fighting in awesome ways) then you certainly won't walk away dissatisfied.

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