The Protector's plot sucks, but so what?
THE PROTECTOR (Prachya Pinkaew). 109 minutes. Opens Friday (September 8). For venues and times, see Movies, page 142. Rating: NNN This follow-up to last year's martial arts blowout, Ong-Bak, reunites star Tony Jaa with director Prachya Pinkaew for another excursion into hard-contact mayhem. Jaa's a master of muay thai, a brutal knees-and-elbows martial art that features high jumps and an astonishing number of ways to break bones. This time Jaa's on a quest to get the baddies who killed his father and stole his beloved elephants, which leads him to a nest of crooked cops in bed with a Chinese mafia family whose dragon-lady daughter ( Jing Xing , in the film's only notable performance) is busy killing her way to the top. The elephants get quality screen time; the plot does not. It's choppy, which suggests this may be a cut-down version.
But plot isn't the point. Action is, and it's delivered hard, fast, sustained and inventive. Pinkaew steals a few ideas from Jackie Chan and The Transporter, but he's got lots of his own and knows how to shoot this stuff. He keeps his camera back and his cutting to a minimum so we get a good look at the action. Little of it is wire-enhanced, and some of it is outstanding.
Lateef Crowder 's capoeira, a Brazilian martial art seldom seen on film, features low, spinning moves, notably arcing kicks launched from the middle of a single-handed handspring. It makes a lovely contrast to Jaa's straight-line attack.