In the jungles of Thailand, young Kham and his father live undisturbed with their beloved elephants, whom they believe are royalty and possess great powers. Their tranquility is suddenly disrupted upon a trip into town to present one of the elephants as a gift to the king. A group of thugs kills Kham's father and steals two of the elephants. Equipped with only the ways of Muay-Thai, a form of martial arts-meets-boxing, Kham travels to Australia to hunt down the baddies.
Easier said than done, of course. No sooner has Kham arrived in Sydney than he stumbles into a massive mafia ring with deep police connections. Scene after scene after scene, it's him vs. the world—or at least dozens of stuntmen and fight-scene actors lined up for a whoppin'.
As already mentioned, Kham's family (true to segments of Thai culture) believes elephants are spiritual beings that, in this case, can pass along power meant to help kings. Indeed, later it's implied that Kham receives a boost of strength thanks to a bell worn around the neck of a recently killed elephant. Madame Rose, one of the main gangster bosses, tries to usurp the powers of a captured elephant via its spirit.
Kham's father tells his son to "pray to our ancestors," and the young man bows in front of the elephants. As the family prepares to visit the king and present the elephants, the father prays, "May this noble spirit bring power and glory to his majesty."
Kham and Mark receive shelter and protection at a Buddhist temple. Later, an extremely long fight takes place there with the golden Buddha statue and various relics in the background. One of Kham's opponents during this sequence shows the word pray seared into his chest.
Two women for hire appear to be topless in a spa, though their mud-bath surroundings obscure any nudity. Another enters the same room and does a sensual striptease/lap dance (wearing only lingerie) as the camera zooms in on various parts of her body. During a tedious sequence, Kham barges into rooms at a mafia-run hotel where couples are presumably in the act. Recoiling men appear in their underwear while women cover themselves with sheets.
Madame Rose and a police detective kiss. She's also shown bathing, and we catch a brief glimpse of skin as she puts on her robe. A billboard depicts a topless woman covering her breasts. Several young women who have been forced into prostitution are seen wearing only what appear to be towels. Though not sexual per se, men go shirtless while fighting for the sole purpose of showing off their muscles.
With little drama and even less acting, The Protector tries to compensate by packing its 88 minutes with more fight scenes than Vin Diesel, Jason Statham and Ahnold combined could even imagine. Pervasive action includes countless guys kicked, punched, kneed, whacked and shellacked in virtually every area of the body. Others get taken out with swords and whips, or objects-turned-weapons such as vases, poles and even elephant bones.
One particularly gruesome scene features Kham slicing the tendons of several large opponents. Faces get smashed into things (glass windows are a favorite), arms are twisted, bones are broken, bodies get tossed around (even an elephant gets flung across the room), and people are hurt in every way imaginable. And though blood doesn't flow as much as you'd expect from such fighting, a few characters are shown with it running down their faces.
That's just the "old school" fighting, however. Several people are also shot in cold blood, others in shootouts. We see a bloody bullet hole in both an elephant and in the forehead of a man. One man gets slammed into a wall and has glass shatter on his back (blood is shown dripping down the wall). Another appears to get stabbed with a knife (offscreen). Yet another goon runs his motorbike into a power box and presumably gets electrocuted.
A fantastical boat chase ends in houses collapsing and several massive explosions. Kham tries to strangle a police officer who's driving; the car then ends up running into a tree. An elephant on the loose knocks over telephone booths and causes mayhem in the streets. Two key characters smash through glass roofs after falling from extreme heights. Madame Rose poisons two young members of her own family to assure she's heir to a fortune.
Drug and Alcohol Content
A private party boasts glasses of wine and hard liquor. When Kham bursts into the room, the camera focuses on several alcohol bottles grabbed as weapons. One of Madame Rose's thugs makes what is implied to be a drug deal, and there's a comment made later about him dealing narcotics.
Other Negative Elements
In typical underdog-been-wronged, action movie fashion, The Protector seems to excuse Kham's destructive ways in the name of justice (really revenge). "His was the right path, a just path," a voiceover declares at the movie's conclusion, while adding that Kham was a hero who followed a "code of honor we have all but forgotten." Uh-huh.
A brief snippet shows a man sitting on a toilet.
Tony Jaa is one athletic dude. I'll give him that. The man can do remarkable things with his body—run up walls, leap over cars, twist multiple times in the air, flip onto opponents' shoulders as part of an attack maneuver. Watching him jump around kicking and pummeling row after row of hapless enemies in The Protector reminded me not just of fighting through 20 levels of a violent video game, but worse, being forced to watch someone else fight through 20 levels of a violent video game.
Amazingly, and to the film's severe discredit, there are laughably horrendous video games out there with better stories, characters and acting. Lots better. You know things are looking bleak when someone is deemed evil simply because he's "a very powerful man." Or when the unremitting fight scenes are so choreographed they look like dance numbers. Or when villains—including seven-foot WWE wrestlers—literally appear out of nowhere in succession. One down, 126 to go.
How a slipshod foreign martial arts flick like this got major U.S. distribution baffles me. I'll chalk it up to studio executives hoping a dedicated sliver of hard-core action fans will pay to see anyone hurt everyone in 101 different ways. But with muddled mysticism, a misplaced emphasis on revenge and salacious sexual content pointlessly tossed in, The Protector goes far beyond just scratching those fans' itch to watch the latest fighting moves.