A Review by Noah Antwiler
Most Ultimate Fighting rounds begin with both fighters touching fists in the center of the ring. Usually it's a casual, nothing gesture. They just swat hands while they limber up and circle for a few seconds. Nobody even thinks about it anymore, just a nonverbal "let's have a good one" between two warriors. One time I saw a match that went to the second round. Both fighters stroll out of their respective corners, circle around a bit. One of them held his hand out, pressing a thumb to his nose to clear out his nostrils, Bruce Lee style. The other guy charged forward and swung for the downs, crushing his fist into the side of his opponent's head like a sledgehammer. Knocked The Fuck Out four seconds into the round, and he never saw it coming. Unsportsmanlike win, you could argue, but the lesson here is this: never let your guard down. NEVER.
I let my guard down. I emerged from the theater bleary-eyed and stupefied, wondering what in the hell just happened in that theater. The Protector got me, and I never saw it coming. I still can't explain it. You see, when I go to see a movie I know will be bad-- say, your average Uwe Boll film or anything with Steven Seagal-- I've got my shields up. I've got some snarky comments ready and I've prepared myself ahead of time for the awfulness to follow. But not this time. The medium of text can't explain the damage this film has done to me. I went to the movies to enjoy myself, thinking I was going to get something on the level of Ong-Bak: The Thai Warrior. Now that's not to say that Ong-Bak was a great film, but it was a solid action flick with some hard-hitting martial arts and some good stunt sequences, the likes of which haven't been seen since Jackie Chan was in his prime. I went to the movies expecting some entertainment and instead I saw the worst movie all year. Maybe longer. Maybe a lot longer.
I'm not exaggerating. I wish you could see my eyes right now. This isn't some idle boast, something you might chalk up to more of my hyperbole. The Protector is horrible. It's the most nonsensical, impossible-to-comprehend action movie I've ever seen. The direction is incompetent. The scripting is pathetic and weak. The story and the editing are arbitrary and contradictory, full of errors and the most incredible lapses of logic this side of Plan 9 From Outer Space. Oh yeah, I went there. This movie is so shitty and full of technical and creative incompetence that it was more painful than a fucking Ed Wood movie. This movie should be used as a study for what not to do in every single conceivable aspect of the movie-making process. I've seen low-budget porno movies that took more care with story continuity than this. And I've seen a lot of low-budget porn. I've dragged friends up to their hotel rooms, smashed out of their gourd on tequila shooters and listened to drunken ramblings on whether or not the Robotech Masters were more badass than the Deceptecons (to which I say fuck that noise) and it made more sense than The Protector. More on this later. I'm not finished. Not by a long shot.
The movie's opening crawl tells us that in ancient times, the Thai kings used elephants as a major element in war. The breeding, raising, and protection of these elephants became a sacred task, and it was left to a special class of warrior (which had a name about 13 syllables long and there's no way I'm going to try and spell it) who mastered Muay Thai to defend them. It's important because it's said that anyone who has the perfect elephant (ie. the king) is invincible in battle. This tradition has carried on to the present date, I guess, because Tony Jaa and his old man have spent their whole lives breeding elephants and honing their ancient martial art of elephant-defense by doing push-ups on their tusks and scooping giant steaming piles of Dumbo poop. Really builds the delts. I'm not kidding, for a guy who lives an idyllic, sheltered life in the forests among the animals, he's just about the most brutal son of a bitch to ever walk the earth. The old guy does not screw around when it comes to defending those things.
But there's trouble in paradise! The new baby elephant (awww!) wanders off alone and is immediately beset by a party of armed poachers who appear to have no real way of capturing an elephant other than leaping out and going "ooga booga booga!" They grapple with the beast (?) for a moment until Mommy Elephant returns, and she's pissed! The poachers scatter and run back home in a panic, but not before one of them mortally wounds Mommy with a shotgun. At least I think that's what happened. The editing is so bad that I can't tell, and the elephant's wound looks more like it was mauled by a velociraptor than shot with a rifle. The Jaa Family mourns the dead elephant, but sojourn onward. The Daddy Elephant has an appointment with the King's official Elephant Inspector-- oh yeah, the King has one of those, degree from Oxford, baby-- and they plan to make him proud.
So off they go to the big city. Papa Jaa goes into the offical Elephant Proving Grounds, but the guards stop Tony and his baby elephant from entering on the excuse that "only elephants worthy of the king may enter." Well sor-ry, dickhead, I didn't know I was intruding on your private little club here. Quite a little world you've fashioned for yourself and your elephants. Tony goes off to get a funnel cake and a bell for his elephant, and gets distracted by a pair of morons flopping around on a mat while a carnival barker announces the sport we're seeing is "blind boxing." Baby elephant wanders off immediately. Great job, Tony. Real cream of the ancient guardsman crop you are. But what surprises me is that the elephant gets no farther than a block when a gang of thugs descend on it and capture it, load it onto a truck, and assemble a cage around it! Jesus Christ! And I thought bike theft at ASU was bad. You can't even leave an elephant alone in Thailand for ten seconds without it getting jacked. No wonder these ancient protectors have to be so hardcore; they can't go anywhere!
Meanwhile, Papa Jaa is talking with the Elephant Inspector. The guy hmmms and pokes, and asks how much mileage is on it, checks its oil, and says that he'll take it. He's got a real nose for this business. Ha! Get it? Nose? Elephant? That's my last one, I promise. He waves over to some of his boys to take the elephant away, and suddenly, everyone freezes. The lead elephant wrangler and Dumbo lock eyes. You read that right: the elephant gives a man the evil eye. Papa Jaa gapes in horror, also recognizing the man-- it's the poacher! He was the guy who killed Mama Elephant! Of course, neither he nor the elephant would have any way of recognizing the poacher because neither of them ever saw him. Neither did the poacher ever see them! Do you really think he'd recognize one elephant from another? But I'm being foolish, assuming that elephants walk through this place all the time. There can't be that many elephant breeders in the world. Why then, is the poacher so totally stunned to see the very guys he raided? Wouldn't you think the odds of running into the same elephant ranchers quite good, particularly when your job is the shipping and receiving of elephants? Clearly the writer of this script knows a damn sight more about the elephant industry than I do. Or maybe the script is just fucking stupid.
The only thing I can think of is that the dying Mama Elephant somehow passed on her memories and consciousness onto the others like Spock did with his katra in The Wrath of Khan. That scene still gets me misty-eyed. Anyway, Papa Jaa (doesn't that name just make you crave pizza?) vehemently refuses to hand the elephant over, but oddly doesn't tell the officials why. It might have saved him, too, because the men wrestle him down and someone shoots him dead. Well that's bullshit, I thought these guys were supposed to be awesome Muay Thai fighters and some dork just pushes him the hell over.
The elephant is enraged and charges towards the group. They flee out into the city streets but find no safety as the crowds are swept away before the mighty animal! Here's a tip: try going indoors. After a brief chase, they lure the elephant into a cargo container disguised as a building, I think using the same ploy the Nazis used in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. Anyway my memory gets a little foggy here because the next thing I know we're at a cocktail party. Someone goes to answer the door off-camera, and he flies back into the shot like he was launched out of a cannon. He bounces off a moose head that's mounted on the wall and collapses 3/4 of the way across the room. The ladies scream and evacuate the room while all the men instantly grab up the nearest booze at hand. Interesting reaction. If I saw a man get pinballed off the ceiling, I'd probably put the liquor down. Then Tony Jaa flies into frame at a height of no less then twelve feet, sailing in a wide parabolic arc to plunge into a man's chest in a devastating double-knee thrust which knocks over everyone in the room like bowling pins. Of course, this would mean that Tony is capable of a twelve-foot high running leap and he must have had about forty yards of clear running space to build up speed, because he easily clears fifteen yards of horizontal distance on the jump. Say, this reminds me of something...
A half-naked guy stands up to challenge Tony. He's got a ton of little glass candle jars stuck to his back for no real reason that I can fathom unless he's got some kind of weird sexual thing going on, or it's some perverted party trick he breaks out at big karaoke parties. "Hey guys, I know, I'll strip down and you can screw glass jars onto my back. We can watch the welts raise up! Fun, huh?" Tony superkicks him in the teeth, then throws another guy to sandwich him against the wall, breaking all the glass into his back. "Ha ha!" laughs Tony, "I see you've forgotten the first rule of Muay Thai: never go into battle with a dozen tiny bottles suctioned onto your back!" Admittedly it's a specific rule, but I think we can all see the sense in it now. The second rule is "never furnish your bedroom with a stylish wall of foot-long steel spikes" (as we've seen in The Transporter 2). Sure they look awesome, but odds are eventually you're going to trip over your Legos, or someone will tie a cable around you and superkick you into them, and then you've got nobody to blame but yourself.
"Damn it!" exclaims the bleeding man as he slumps to the ground. "You win this round, Tony Jaa! But next time I'll return without affixing Mason jars to my ass! Then we'll see how tough you are when you're not kicking shards of my own butt-mounted glass into my kidneys. Ha ha!"
And then the camera focuses on a wine glass! Wow! That contributes nothing!
And I'm growing convinced that the movie itself was shot badly out of focus, perhaps with a bad lens. The movie appears blurry on the lower left corner in both the print I saw in the theater and in the clips I see online. Or I'm just going blind. Tony Jaa starts dismantling everyone in the room by blasting them in the shins and throwing sharp elbows into their heads. Some bald chubby dude is freaking the hell out, wiggling his finger at Tony and wheezing in terror like Bert Lahr's portrayal of the Cowardly Lion. Sort of a "homina homina homina" please-dont-double-knee-thrust-me begging. So Tony blasts him through a glass door with a double knee thrust.
The guy in the office beyond has a sudden flurry of intelligent thought and gets his gun (fucking finally), but Tony disarms him with a slick flying corkscrew leg scissors takedown that must have taken about a zillion takes to get just right. "You killed my father!" Tony screams, then asks "where are my elephants??" How many times have I seen Jack Bauer beat the shit out of some and scream questions just like that? "WHERE IS THE SENTOX NERVE GAS?? TELL ME WHERE THE BOMB IS! WHERE ARE MY ELEPHANTS?" You'll notice that nearly every line he has is some variant of "You killed my father!" and "Where are my elephants?" It's tedious.
Oh yeah, by the way? This movie is about finding a pair of elephants. A pair of fucking elephants. If you thought the premise of Ong-Bak was weak? Man, it was hard to find something more useless and cumbersome to steal than a giant bronze Buddha head, but they managed to find it. Just remember this when you think about the morgues full of dead bodies and the emergency rooms filled with dying men with shattered limbs looking forward to years of horrendously painful rehabilitation: it's over elephants. And it doesn't even seem like Tony cares that much about his father getting killed. Of course, Tony Jaa has all the emotive range of a smoke detector, but even so, the dead father is an afterthought next to this quest for the missing elephants! Seriously, do the Thai even give a fuck? It's the 21st century, for crying out loud. And who the shit steals elephants? Can't we just knock over armored cars like any other sensible organized crime operation? Why did I even like Ong-Bak in the first place?
The disarmed gunman squeals like a piggy and tells Tony that the elephants are in Sydney. He doesn't know where, but he has a Polaroid of the guys who have them. The boss of the crime syndicate didn't tell you his name or where their operation was, but he posed for a Polaroid in front of his illegal business front and gave it to you as a memento? Sigh...afterward, more thugs burst into the room and Tony flees (?) on a motorboat in a scene so out of place and self-indulgent it's almost like it was filmed for another movie entirely. They zip around, crash into things, and there's even an attack helicopter which Tony manages to improbably take out by causing one of his pursuers to ramp over his boat and crash into it. Because as a Protector, you learn how to expertly pilot motorboats in combat situations. Uh huh.
Tony zips over to Australia and accidentally bumps shoulders with Jackie Chan in a surprise "passing of the torch cameo" as they both nod respectfully to each other and walk on. Actually they both spaz out, thrash around into their fighting stances, then look sheepish and nod at each other, but you know what I mean. Touching, but man, did Jackie choose a bad movie to do this. Passing the torch in this movie is like lighting a match after you take your Thanksgiving holiday shit. It's courteous, but you've still left a hell of a mess behind.
Tony hails a cab and (as he's not able to speak Australian) hands him the photo of the local crime syndicate. The cabbie, to his credit, seems to know precisely where to go and for a minute or so the actor tries to make his own feeble stab at nailing the coveted "Annoying But Brief Comic Relief Cab Driver" role that was slam-dunked long ago by Bob Picardos' Johnny Cab in Total Recall. "You staying here long? You here to meet Australian chicks?" That sort of thing. My problem with this guy is that he has a queer Russo/Germanic accent and is clearly anything but a native Australian.
A police car swings into traffic and follows the taxi. Now you might think that the cops are following Tony Jaa somehow. That doesn't make a whole lot of sense, seeing as how Tony just arrived and there's no reason for him to be wanted by the cops just yet. But maybe they're crooked cops. It could work. But if you thought that, you'd be making the mistake of believing the script was written with an iota of logic or reasoning behind it, which is a big fucking mistake. No, the cops are chasing the cabbie, because he curses and puts the hammer down, dodging through the streets at extreme speeds! And no, at no time are we given any explanation or hint why the taxi driver is being chased by the cops, or why the police seem to be conducting an elaborate sting operation to stakeout the airport terminal, wait for him to pick up a perfectly ordinary customer, then chase him down with sirens blaring. Why would they wait? Is it illegal to drive a taxi in Australia? If they wanted to arrest him, why not just walk up to him when he was parked in front of the terminal? What in the hell is going on here?
The cops manage to corner the taxi in an alley, so the cabbie gets out and holds Tony hostage at gunpoint, screaming that they'll never take him in. Tony whirls around, disarms the guy, and shoves him into a wall just as backup arrives. The cabbie gets up and puts his hands in the air, only to be shot dead by a Smarmy Australian Cop. The first responders on the scene, a Thai policeman and his partner look at SAC with "what the fuck, dude" looks on their faces. Tony makes tracks and vaults over a high chain-link fence. Smarmy tells the other two to chase him down.
"Idiot, he was the hostage!" says the Thai cop, whose name I think is Mark.
"No, he wasn't," SAC sneers.
Um...yes he was. He totally was. And how does Smarmy Australian Cop know who Tony Jaa is? And if he did know, how did he know that to arrive in this exact alley at this exact time? The chase only took about twenty seconds, so assuming that the cop is evil and wants to kill Tony, he's either prescient or he was lucky enough to be patrolling this block in Sydney when the chase occurred, and they gave Tony's description on the radio. But we know that they didn't do that, because again, the cops were actually chasing the cabbie. What is he doing here??
But let's go back to the core issue here: the base assumption that Smarmy Australian Cop wants to kill Tony Jaa. Forget about how he came to be here. If he wanted Tony dead, why in the name of Satan's chapped ASSHOLE did he shoot the cabbie??? Why did he even bother when he had a clear, point-blank range shot at Tony? Now he's been seen by several other cops executing a completely unarmed man! Maybe he just missed, in which case we're dealing with a crooked psychic detective with crippling astygmatism who works for the Thai mob in Australia.
Tony does some athletic moves where he vaults some fences and leaps over stuff, navigating over obstacles that the other policemen don't even bother attempting. Then, all of a sudden, Tony finds himself surrounded by the same three cops. WHAT?? How did this happen? Can the cops teleport around the city at will now? Those guys couldn't have headed Tony off this quickly if they'd swung between buildings like Spider-Man. Now you'd think that Smarmy Australian Cop would shoot Tony now. Nope! Instead they just arrest him and by sheer coincidence drive by the exact place Tony was trying to go in the picture. He strangles the driver with his handcuffs, causing it to crash into another car, and escapes out the window. So either Australian cops are incredibly stupid, or whoever directed this crap didn't know that (a) suspects are always cuffed with their hands behind their back precisely to prevent this sort of thing, and (b) suspects don't go anywhere unless they're in a squad car with a cage in it that separates the driver from the back seat.
Tony runs from the scene and recognizes the guy coming out of the building from his photogtaph, so he follows him into the city. The guy (named Johnny) meets up with his girlfriend on a freeway overpass when Tony confronts him, screeching something about wanting his elephants back. Only he's yelling at Johnny in Thai, so the girlfriend is forced to translate the gist of the conversation to Johnny. He quirks an eyebrow at the odd question and sics his two bodyguards on Tony. At least I assume they're his bodyguards; everyone in this crime syndicate appears to wear black leather with silver studs from head to toe, like gang members in a Chuck Norris movie. The bodyguards brawl with him for a while before they decide spontaneously to run away. One of them leaps off the edge of the overpass onto a conveniently slow-moving truck, but Tony is right behind him and beats his ass. Then the driver of the truck gets out, clad in black leather, brandishing a knife.
Yeah. The driver of a random semi-truck that just happened to be passing under the overpass at 5 miles per hour down a busy street in the biggest city in Australia was is in the same crime organization as the guy getting beat up by Tony Jaa. This movie is going to put me in the silly house banging my head against goose-down walls, mark my words. Anyway, Knife Guy doesn't last long in combat with Tony.
Cut to a warehouse in the Sydney Boondocks. Johnny is with about forty anonymous henchmen doing one of those "I give you a suitcase full of money, you give me a suitcase full of white baggies" deals. Apparently Johnny decided not to let a Thai kickboxer chasing him around the city disrupt his cocaine purchase, but man does he look surprised when Tony bursts into the warehouse dragging Knife-Wielding Truck Driver Gangster Man behind him by his ear. I'll just assume for the sake of saving myself from utter madness that the Truck Driver Gangster Man just happened to know precisely when and where this major drug-buy was happening, despite having nothing to do with it. The assembled gangsters look at the strange screaming elephant rancher and gun him down into bloody McNugget-sized chunks. Actually they don't.
The drug-selling guy looks at Johnny like his feelings have really been hurt by this interruption, as if to say "Oh fine, I guess that just ruins the drug deal I spent so much time getting ready for, doesn't it. I didn't you you were committing other crimes behind my back." He leaves, taking most of the henchmen with him. Johnny strolls to the side, where there's a rope hanging from the ceiling with a large ring attached to the end. He pulls the rope downward, and a large, booming horn sounds. And when I say "large" and "booming," I mean the camera pulls back to show the entire building, then all of Sydney reacting to the sound of this horn. There are at least a half-dozen shots of various, radically-different locations in Sydney where the horn can be heard. Who rigged up a gigantic, Australia-shaking foghorn in the roof of this warehouse, complete with a pullcord?
But that's not even the funny part. In response to the horn, dozens of men from Johnny's gang burst into the warehouse from all angles, many of them on various modes of extreme-sports transportation, like dirtbikes. We see them pass by a crate full of 3-foot fluoresent light tubes and each grabs one, wielding it like it was a lightsaber. This is where the movie gets into truly transcendent levels of insanity. I'm serious, by this point I was wondering whether or not I had just gone out of my mind and was dreaming this disjointed, nonsensical imagery. I tried to wake myself up, that's how sure I was this couldn't possibly be real.
You're trying to tell me that around Sydney, there are dozens of extreme sports kung-fu fighters riding around on dirtbikes and 4-wheelers going about their normal, everyday lives until (only in an emergency) someone pulls the Goon Rope, issuing forth a clarion call that can be heard throughout the city, no matter where you are. These guys all adhere to a dress code of black studded leather, and when they hear this magic horn, will drop everything and vector in to one specific warehouse, gathering up useless weapons on the way and come in swinging. Bartender, break out the hard stuff and leave the bottle.
Can you imagine how this could possibly work in real life?
"So anyway, I'm at Subway and the guy tells me they're out of bread. Completely out. They're not even baking any. I mean, how does a sandwich restaurant run out of br--"
"The Horn of Goondor! I gotta run!"
It's like the Batsignal for henchmen. I've seen episodes of VIP that made more sense than this. You know, that show with Pamela Anderson which was about a bunch of hot chicks running a protection service? I remember seeing an episode where the villain was about to get trounced by the girls, so he escapes in his van, finds a group of ninjas clustered on a street corner, leans out the window and asks them "you guys looking for work?" The ninjas agree, pile into the van, and he drives back and they have a fight scene. And that makes more frigging sense than this bullshit. God, I would rather give a blowjob to a panicked skunk than watch this movie anymore. When Pam Anderson is making you look stupid, you have got issues with your screenwriting that can only be solved by sticking a gun under your chin.
Tony handily beats up the goons by jumping in and out of a pair of disused trolley cars (does Australia even have a trolley system?) and expertly dodging their fluorescent lights. Because you know what would happen if they actually hit him with one of those. Why, the light would break. Yeah. And then they'd totally leave and make him clean it up. Just when it looks like he's won, a 4-wheeler roars through a stack of empty plastic jugs and strikes him in the hip. The driver circles around, getting ready to deliver the deathblow with...something...until Tony does a running-up-the-window backflip that causes the driver to crash spectacularly far below. You've seen it in the previews. Oh, and about the previews: do you remember hearing anything about elephants in those trailers? No? You know why? Because nobody would ever pay to see a movie about a guy crippling and killing people over a pair of goddamn elephants.
Elsewhere, we find a group of affluent Thai gansters seated around a large meeting table. A waitress delivers a bowl of soup to some old fart at the head of the table. A stern-faced woman tells him that he should like it; it's turtle soup and prepared by an expert chef. The old guy takes a sip and spits it back into the bowl. "It's terrible! Watery and tasteless!" he gripes. "If you can't even prepare a good meal, how can you possibly do a good job handling my security?" I wasn't aware the two skills were linked. The United States Marine Corps must be full of master chefs. And what in the heck does this have to do with anything?
I know what he should do! He should contact Steven Seagal! He's a master chef and the best fighter in the world. Get mah pies out of the oven!
Then we see Johnny's girlfriend walking by the warehouse (don't ask me how she gets there or why) where she finds Tony outside, slumped against the wall and completely knocked-out. Something must have happened between cuts that blasted Tony out of the building, because I'm coming up blank on possible reasons that Tony passed out here. Am I supposed to think that he walked out of the building and succumbed to the hip injury he sustained from having a 4-wheeler bump into him? It sure didn't stop him from doing Matrix-fu a few minutes earlier. Or maybe he has narcolepsy brought on from too many fluorescent bulbs swatted upside his head. The continuity in this movie is so bad, I almost think that someone is screwing with me. You couldn't even screw things up this badly if you set out to intentionally make a movie with bad scene continuity. Characters are sustaining grievous injuries and being knocked out between edits. It's like these scenes were deliberately arranged out of order, or pulled from a hat. Did they shoot this movie with a script? I'm asking seriously. Is it possible that there were written words on a page when they shot this nonsense? "Don't worry about the story, guys. We'll put one in in post-production."
Johnny's girlfriend takes Tony to her apartment to recover from the injuries he sustained not getting beat up. Oh, and in case you were thinking that he really did get hurt from being struck by the 4-wheeler, forget it; he never demonstrates so much as a limp for the rest of the movie to reflect an injury of any sort.
Meanwhile, Officer Mark & Aussie Partner are talking about the rotten day they've had as they drive back to the station. Aussie Partner remarks on how fucked up it was that Smarmy Australian Cop blatantly executed an unarmed man right in front of them. Hilariously, Mark just shrugs and says something like "Enh, that criminal was probably up to no good anyway." What is this, Texas? Remind me never to go to Australia, guys. I wouldn't last a week there before the cops shoot me on a routine traffic stop. "Enh, he looked like an asshole."
Things don't get much better at the station. The chief chews Mark out something fierce. "You're off the case!" he tells them. What case? They're beat cops. They don't HAVE cases. I don't even know why he's upset at Mark. He's not the guy who murdered a suspect, but Smarmy Australian Cop isn't even getting a stern talking-to.
Tony sleeps fitfully, dreaming of ancient Thai battlegrounds and mighty wars. He dreams of ancient Protectors defending the King's elephant from all attackers. This dream sequence is rendered in computer animation so bad that it looks worse than the original Virtua Fighter arcade game. It's that poor. I've seen wireframe pre-production animations that were rendered and motion-captured better. You think I'm joking. I'm not. The CG in Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, long regarded as some of the worst ever witnessed, not only looks better than this, it looks spectacularly better. The CG in The Protector looks thirty YEARS out of date. I've seen Flash animations that were more-tightly rendered. Good lord.
Now, I'm writing this from memory, because at the time of writing the movie is still in theaters. So my recollection of the order of these scenes, as well as some of the finer details is probably incorrect. But sadly, it truly doesn't matter and in reality I'm probably arranging them more sensibly in my head than they were edited in the theatrical cut. It doesn't make a lick of sense either way. I'd also like to mention that the dubbing of the characters in this movie is inconsistent and defies all reason. Some characters are dubbed in English. Some aren't. Some are subtitled. Some speak English but are dubbed anyway. Tony Jaa is Thai and is subtitled, yet other Thai characters are dubbed in English. Some characters seem to switch between subs and dubs, and even others appear to change voice actors entirely! PICK ONE!
We go to a private spa of some sort, where a couple of lumpy Hutt-like people are lounging in a big jacuzzi full of mud. The Thai boss introduces his favorite girl, Pia, who dances into the mud and writhes around in her underwear to a bad hip-hop tune. She smears the mud all over herself and gives some blubbery white guy (who I assume is some Aussie police chief) a sloppy lap dance. It's pretty hot and all, but really, can't she take her clothes off? Wouldn't she want to instead of smearing mud all over her sexy lingerie? What kind of stripper doesn't take her clothes off? This movie is rated R; it's not like they need to protect the rating. What I'm saying is this movie desperately needed bare Thai titties, and I'm frigging pissed that I'm not seeing any. Instead I'm looking at two greasy fat dudes covered in mud.
The white guy is waist deep in mud, so you can't exactly see, but the expression on his face and posture telegraphs the nauseating message that he's just popped a massive boner. So big, in fact, that he starts to have heart palpitations! Damn! Now that's getting wood, when the shift in blood pressure gives you a seizure. I had one like that the first time I saw Jessica Rabbit. Awooooo! The white guy begs for his medication, so Pia sloshes out of the pool and roots around in his jacket for his bottle of pills.
This saves her life, because some guy in a hoodie boots in the door and shoots everyone he sees dead. Pia does her best to hide, and notices that the white guy was recording the strip-show-- and consequently, the murders-- on a little portable camera. PLOT POINT. Officer Mark and Aussie Partner arrive on the scene and subdue Hoodie Guy. DAYUMN that was fast. How did they arrive here so quickly, and how did they even know to be here when nobody called the police? This is yet another example of the cops almost anticipating crimes before they happen. Maybe Australia has a Pre-Crime division that I'm just not aware of. But suddenly, someone shoots Hoodie Guy dead!
Aussie Partner wheels around, shouting "WTF mate" until Smarmy Australian Cop guns him down, too. He did it again! What is with this guy and his non-sequitir murdering of innocent characters? All he does is appear in scenes and kill people for no reason! Mark is as confused as I am, until SAC explains that he can frame it all on Mark and get away scot-free. Cute plan, but he could just as easily kill Mark and blame the whole thing on Hoodie Guy (SAC used Hoodie Guy's gun, I think), and nobody would be the wiser. In fact, framing Mark would make much less sense than a normal gangland hit. Why would a cop already behind the eightball of an internal investigation be involved in high-profile assassinations when he has no previous record of involvement with organized crime? Mark makes a run for it, and the room clears out. He doesn't get far outside. Pia grabs up the camera and makes tracks. This plotline doesn't pay off at all, I'm warning you right now.
Tony wakes up folowing his lamely-animated dream, snoops around the apartment a bit, and notices that the cops are pulling up to the curb outside. Chalk up another one for the Psychic Cops.
Back to Mob HQ. The old people are arguing about who should lead the syndicate. The angry-faced Thai lady seems the most fitting choice, but most of the older fellows are of the old-school of crime and none-too-subtly suggest that someone else should take over. As in...oh, say...anyone else. Anyone else with a dick, that is. "O rly?" says Angry Lady, and watches smugly as everyone they suggested chokes to death on poison. Rather good foresight on her part to predict in advance who they would suggest to lead the mob, poison them, and even better, time the poison so that they would all choke to death and die on cue. Dang that's good timing. Twenty seconds more or less, or if they'd decided to start with a salad and she would have looked kind of ridiculous. "Holy shit, why did Cheng just die face-down in his own clam chowder?" "Uhhh...well now I feel a little silly..."
Johnny goes back to his club/restaurant to report his failure at the drug deal ("Not my fault; the Goon Rope didn't work!") when Tony rampages through the door and systematically kicks ass all the way up about 5 floors of the building in one long, sustained shot. At least, that's what they claim, but the cynic in me spotted plenty of likely places for edits. When he reaches the top floor, he enters a restaurant where people are dining on scorpions and various nasty creatures. Looking around, he sees that the restaurant's theme is that they serve rare and disgusting animals as meals. Tony looks around for anyone eating elephant burgers and sees Johnny. A hundred points if you can guess what Tony screeches at him. Yup: "Where are my elephants??"
Even though Johnny doesn't speak Thai, he's pieced together that Tony has a half-track brain and taunts him with the bell he bought for the elephant earlier, then steps forward to fight him one-on-one. Johnny wins the opening round with an impressive kick-heavy style of combat (I'm guessing Taekwondo) to the merry applause of the restaurant patrons over their Crunchy Frogs and Ram's Bladder Cups. But you know Tony, the very thought of his elephants in danger gives him a rip-roaring second wind like Hulk Hogan, and he pummels Johnny and his bodyguards senseless. The people in the restaurant look forlorn that the entertainment is over and filter towards the exits-- and without paying! Cheapskates!
While poking around the building, Tony comes across Officer Mark, chained up in a room full of young female prisoners and slaves. Hilariously, he chooses to only free Mark and leaves the innocent girls to rot! Ha! They decide to take a breather behind some crates, and find the baby elephant right next to them! When they exit the building, a big rig with a cargo container hitched to the back pulls up in front of them. "There's Han," Mark points out, and they load the elephant into the truck.
"There's Han?" Who the fuck is Han? And what's he doing here with an empty truck? Did he anticipate your need for a large vehicle to transport an elephant, or did he just happen to know a friend he could call during the day and say "Hey buddy, can you swing by and pick up my elephant? I know you've got the trunk-space." HAH! Oh I'm bad. I know, I promised.
Whoever Han is, he drives the elephant somewhere safe. Johnny goes to Angry Lady, who's pretty angry about Johnny screwing up next week's elephant fondue party. "What the hell do I keep you around for?" she wonders aloud. Johnny looks forlorn, nodding his head that she's right, and goes home. He goes home. No, you don't get it. He goes HOME. She hurts his feelings, and he leaves. He drops out of the movie entirely. Forget about him. You never see him again. Oh, I expected him to return to fight Tony later in the movie, seeing as how he's been built up for half the movie as Tony's nemesis and has been proven to be a rare credible opponent to him, and he just disappears. This scripting is terrible.
Mark and Tony arrive at a Buddhist temple...for...some reason and find that it's engulfed in flames, and everyone inside has been killed. Tony steps inside to find a hooded black guy lounging on the Buddha statue, who steps down to face him. It's important to note that even though Mark arrived with Tony in this scene, he's now nowhere to be found and won't show up for another five minutes. Oh yeah, believe it. The black guy takes off his poncho to reveal scars on his chest that spell out "PRAY" and he starts to hop around in the unusual capoeira fighting style, a type of dance-fu where the moves are concealed in rhythmic gyrations. It looks cool, but it's one of those fighting styles that's purely for exhibitions because it's nearly useless in a real fight. You'd need about 50 square feet of room to do these moves and if someone ever managed to grab one of your limbs it's all over. Still, as a cinematic fight it's not bad. My question: does this capoeira guy work for the Angry Thai Lady, or is he just some anonymous badass who wants to fight?
Tony wins, of course, knocking him out with a roundhouse kick to the crown of his head. Another guy joins the fight, an Asian with a Chinese-style sword. The black guy, despite being knocked out, vanishes from the scene completely in a glaring continuity gaffe. Tony beats up the swordsman with pair of gong mallets, when finally a gigantic white dude-- and I do mean gigantic-- steps in and says "BLAARRRGH!" It's Nathan Jones, former WWF slab-o-meat, the Colossus of Boggo Road himself! "AAARRGH!" he repeats. What is Nathan Jones doing in this movie? Why did they kill a bunch of Buddhist priests? What in the name of Spock's pubes is happening?
Where was I? Oh yeah. Nathan Jones says "HARRRR!" So Tony kicks him. "BLAAAARGH!" Nathan growls, not impressed. Tony pummels at him ineffectually, each time roaring "URRRRRGGGH!!", which is Jonesian for "that all you got, dickcheese?" Tony leaps up and delivers a savage elbow spike to the top of his head, which actually breaks the skin and draws blood. This pisses Nathan off to no end, and he throws Tony around like a ragdoll. He's about to finish him off when he hears police sirens, which gives him pause. WHY? Aren't the police crooked around here? Ugh. Nathan vanishes (as much as a 9-foot tall chunkhead can vanish anywhere), and Officer Mark enters the room. Now where in the fuck were YOU? What, did you stop off for a Slim Jim and miss the fight scene? Tony could have used his worthless ass when he was getting kicked around by some weird capoeira dude and being sliced up with a sword. Oh, and you missed NATHAN JONES kicking his ass. I honestly think that the screenwriter just forgot Mark was in this scene.
Elsewhere, cops storm and ransack Pia's (the stripper with the camera who witnessed the murders) apartment. Viva Psi-Cops! These are the best policemen I've ever seen. Crooked as a Russian politician, but damn are they efficient. How many ways is this scene wrong? Let me count the ways!
1) The cops never saw Pia, and indeed, never knew she exisited or witnessed the murders!
2) There was nobody alive at the scene who could have told them about Pia.
3) Even if they HAD seen her, or even if someone HAD told them about her, they'd have no way of knowing where she lived given her first name alone.
4) Even assuming all of the above, they had no way of knowing she had the Camera of Exonnerating Evidence and even less reason to believe that she would stash it in her own apartment.
Tony and Mark decide to get some rest by sleeping in a public park. Why don't they go to Han's place, since he's such a good friend of yours? He's willing to keep your elephant at his place, but not let you crash on the couch? Maybe they didn't want to strain his hospitality. But still, no motel? No late-night movie theater to catch a few hours of sleep? Your best idea was sleeping in the park? By morning, Tony's vanished, leaving Mark alone. Mark gets up, looking puzzled just as the police arrive and arrest him. How do they know? They just know. They. Just. Know. We need to watch those Australians, man. They've got unknown powers.
We can see Tony walking the streets of Sydney with his baby elephant in tow. He actually stopped by Han's place to pick up the elephant, and he's walking around the streets in broad daylight with it. And somehow the cops miss this? Anyway, they arrive at some building which must be Evil HQ even though Tony has no way of knowing where that could be. I've learned quickly that little things like facts and information aren't necessary for people in this movie to go places. They just show up. Sort of like the United States in Iraq.
The elephant clears a path through the lobby, allowing Tony to confront Smarmy Australian Cop (who is here for no reason). SAC pulls out a gun, which trumps Muay Thai any day. But suddenly, a nearby elevator door opens up and Mark shoots him dead. That's right, Mark-- the guy who was just arrested in the last scene-- appears in this strange building getting off the elevator on the ground floor, with a gun which he had ready. Not at all surprised to see Smarmy Australian Cop here, he shoots him dead without hesitation. This doesn't look like the police station. Whatever. It's almost over.
Tony bursts into Angry Thai Lady's throne room-- yes, she has a throne room-- where some weasely guy is finishing up a pseudo-religious ritual commemorating ATL's ascension to authority and her newfound superpowers. Remember that if you own an elephant, according to the Thai myth purported in this movie, you're immortal or some crap. I'm hoping it's a little more involved than that in real life. And don't ask how Tony knew to run into this room of all the hundreds of rooms in this building. Maybe this one had a sign on the door reading "GIANT THRONE ROOM: KEEP OUT." Weasely Guy wraps up the sermon and drops a curtain behind the throne revealing the Papa Elephant's bones which have been covered in gold and encrusted with jewels and whatnot. Now that Tony officially knows where both elephants are, he's effectively robbed of half his vocabulary, so he falls back on shouting the only other line he knows: "you killed my father!!"
Bad guys storm into the room, but Tony's too whipped emotionally at the sight of his dead elephant to resist them. They beat him up for a bit, and one stabs him in the midsection before he gets mad enough to fight back. The next few minutes are particularly disgusting as Tony cripples at least thirty men in a particularly badly-choreographed fight where he shatters their arms and legs, and every move he makes is punctuated with a gross over-the-top sound of celery-snapping and bone crunching. He beats them all, and advances on the throne when Nathan Jones comes from the back. I can't remember exactly what he says, but I think it's "AAAAGGGH!"
Tony fares a little better against the Colossus of Boggo Road (that really is Nathan's nickname), but Angry Thai Lady stands up in a kickin' dominatrix outfit and interferes in the fight using a bullwhip. Several more enormous pro-wrestlers rush to Nathan's rescue. The baby elephant charges in on Tony's side (showing more acting talent than Tony has in the entire film) and attacks the wrestlers. Two of the wrestlers pile onto the elephants back and fling it bodily across the room. This has to be seen to be believed. Two grown men fistfighting a baby elephant. This is the worst movie I've seen in a long, long time. Nathan chucks Tony over his head and through the elephant skeleton. ATL smacks Nathan, "You fucking meathead, don't you have any idea how much that cost to get that monster bronzed at Things Remembered?"
Oh, and all the people that Tony incapacitated in the last fight scene? They disappear. They all had the courtesy to limp out of the room so that the floor was clear for the next fight. I guess.
Nathan looks sheepish. "Arrrgh," he apologizes. Tony somersaults out of the skeleton's wreckage with a pair of elephant shin bones strapped to his forearms, which he uses to club the three steroid-junkies over the head. This might actually be an effective weapon in real life, because your opponents would either be crippled with laughter or too busy wondering what the hell you're doing with gigantic bones strapped to your arms. The bones break into jagged shards, and Tony receives another vision from his Protector ancestors (complete with another ridiculously stupid-looking CG-animated sequence that looks like it came from the original Tomb Raider PC game) which reminds him that even the biggest creatures can't fight if you slice their tendons. Brilliant advice, Obi-Wan. "Stop punching the 300 lbs. professional fighters and stab them." So he goes about hamstringing them all with the laser-sharp broken elephant bones and cruelly slicing their Achilles tendons and every other muscle he can find, effectively damning them to a life of horror and agony. All this over a dead frigging elephant.
And why did they kill the elephant? I thought the legend was that you were supposed to protect the elephant from harm if you wanted to gain the powers associated with them. I didn't hear anything about bronzing its bones and making a profoundly ugly statue out of it. Maybe she didn't even know about the legend and wanted something really fucking grotesque to decorate her throne room to creep the hell out of people.
Angry Thai Lady flees to the roof, only to find Weasely Guy already escaping on her helicopter. He lowers a rope for her, but Tony runs up and somersault-kicks him in the face and does that leaping double-knee thrust off the building you've seen in the previews. The two tumble off the side of the building and inexplicably crash back down into the throne room and through the remains of the elephant skeleton. How is that even possible? They jumped off the building and landed...back in the building? Not to mention that our brave hero just crushed an unarmed woman.
Oh, and that subplot about Pia, the camera, and the guys who framed Mark for the murder? She has nothing to do with the main story whatsoever. She simply delivers the camera to someone in authority and the whole matter is resolved without her ever actually getting involved in the plot or the main characters. Where was Mark during the climactic fight with thirty gangsters and the brawl with Nathan Jones? I don't know, but as the movie wraps up we can see that he's sustained a number of bloody injuries in fights we never saw. Tony is never detained or questioned about the people he's brutally assaulted and murdered and everyone lives happily ever after. Except for about sixty people decimated by Tony Jaa who will all need massive orthopedic surgery. But after that they'll be on extraordinarily strong pain-killers, so I guess they will be happy after all!
Isn't it great how things work out?