'The Protector 2' [Blu ray]
(Tony Jaa, RZA, Petchtai Wongkamlao, et al / Blu ray / R / 2014 / Magnolia Home Entertainment)
Overview: When Boss Suchart is murdered, all evidence points to KHAM (Tony Jaa). Forced to run as he fights to clear his name, he is hunted by not only the police, but Boss Suchart's revengeful twin nieces and LC (RZA), a crime lord with his own agenda.
Blu ray Verdict: Also known as 'Warrior King 2' and by its original title, 'Tom Yum Goong 2,' this sequel to the global smash-hit 'The Protector' is an extreme fight movie of the highest order. Endlessly intense it is chock full of daredevil stunt scenes and amazingly choreographed fighting moves. Moves that will instantly pump hot blood through the body of all action fans!
That said, by incorporating special effects and stereoscopic 3D into the film's action scenes, Director Prachya Pinkaew completely forgets its major visual effect, namely Tony Jaa himself! The action is haphazardly cut with an embarrassingly huge amount of spatial jumps and tight close-ups that do not match, as if there was not enough usable footage. Many times the viewer enters the action after the first hit has been made. Apparently there were five editors on the project, what happened?
Tony Jaa is at not in his peak physical form, and the film seems to be hiding it from the audience. He is not as fast or hard-hitting as he once was. Jaa's choreography is restrained, for most of the group fights he just seems to be dispatching people aside as quickly as possible. And the whole time, I was waiting for Jaa to show off. Every time Ja whips out the elephant boxing style, a style that he and fight choreographer Panna invented for the previous film, are some of the film's most exciting moments. Sadly, there is very little of it.
Jeeja Yanin from 'Chocolate' is unfortunately sidelined, she occasionally shows up to help Tony Jaa and vice versa, but otherwise there is little interaction between them. Clumsy cop comic sidekick Petchtai Wongkamlao gets some nice lines in but as seen in the first Ong Bak his strengths seem to lie in physical comedy, which he does not get to do here. The stunning Rhatha Phongam from Only God Forgives also makes a decent femme fatale, but the overabundance of supporting characters and a political assassination plot weighs everything down as the film takes on more than it can handle. Why does it have to be so complicated? Man loses elephant. Man goes and retrieves it, end of story!
RZA, together with his film The Man with the Iron Fist and self-proclaimed love of martial arts films, is forging a reputation to being a kung fu film staple. His casting as the villain is cashing in on that particular geek sheik. Atrocious acting aside, watching RZA sharing an on screen fight with Tony Jaa had me rolling my eyes. RZA movie fights just fine, but does anyone buy him gaining the upper hand on Ja?
Speaking of which, Marresse Crump, who plays the lead henchman, is a great on screen fighter who can go toe-to-toe with Tony Jaa. The first fight between Crump and Jaa had me pumped, and their last fight on a train track was the type of creative set piece I was expecting to see. Both fighters are capable of more complicated choreography but the choreographers held back with their fight. The fights always seem to be over before the audience can properly enjoy them. The first Tom Yum Goong had a video game boss level-like approach with its action sequences that kept topping each other in terms of scale and insanity, which was made it entertaining and hilarious. There is nothing to that equivalent here. This is a Widescreen Presentation (1.85:1) enhanced for 16x9 TVs and comes with the Bonus Features of:
Behind the Scenes Featurettes: Cast & Characters, Speaking with the Director, Action & Stunts, Working in 3D
AXS TV: A Look at The Protector 2