A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that the film is essentially a series of brutal martial arts fights, with bones crunching and bodies slamming. In a sad scene that leads directly to action, a young man's father is shot (bloody chest) and dies in his arms. Fights show bodies thrown through walls and windows, into furniture, and in/out of vehicles. Some assaults result in bloody faces or bodies. One sequence features slow motion kicks/hits performed in standing water, with background fires burning; another a lengthy series of bones breaking (arms, legs, necks, backs) with loud sound effects. One villain throws a baby elephant through as window (reportedly, a real elephant was not used); one adult elephant appears dead/mounted as a trophy. One scene shows characters eating exotic animals (close-ups of slithery items being chewed), while another shows young women/older men in mud bath, and still another shows a young boy dying of poisoning (briefly gruesome).
What's the story?
In the non-stop action saga, THE PROTECTOR, Kham (Tony Jaa) is raised by his father (Sotorn Rungruaeng) to respect the ancient traditions where warriors protect elephants. In Thailand, these magnificent creatures carry kings and represent their grand, god-given power. When Kham's father is murdered and his elephants stolen by Australian gangsters, Kham travels from rural Thailand to Sydney to retrieve the animals, a father and son named Por Yai and Kohrn.
Is it any good?
Apparently trimmed by some 20 minutes from its 2005 Thai version, this film is comprised mainly of fight scenes, with very little in the way of coherent plot or characterization. Still, the good and bad guys are well established: Kham is relentless in his pursuit of his elephants. He's helped occasionally (say, when the moment calls for a man with a gun) by a sympathetic Thai-born cop, Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao), as he fights the wiry gangster-fighter Johnny (Johnny Tri Nguyen). The chief villain is Madame Rose (Xing Jing), who runs a collection of illicit businesses, including the purchase/consumption of exotic animals, prostitution, and drugs.
The action is absurd and thrilling. And Jaa does his own stunts, as his hero Jackie Chan used to. In an early scene at the Sydney airport, Kham/Jaa bumps into fellow traveler Chan (actually, an impersonator), and they face off for an instant, then go their separate ways, effectively passing on the tradition of elaborate, exquisitely choreographed fighting on screen.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about Kham's devotion to his elephant (Kohrn) and to the "old ways" the elephant and Kham's murdered father represent. How is Kham's relationship to the baby elephant paralleled to his devotion to his father? How does the movie compare the warrior's traditional, honorable code to the criminals' corrupt "modern" code? How is violence (in the form of skilled martial arts) celebrated, whereas mercenary, selfish violence is condemned?
- In theaters: September 8, 2006
- On DVD or streaming: January 16, 2007
- Cast: Johnny Nguyen, Nathan Jones, Tony Jaa
- Director: Prachya Pinkaew
- Studio: Weinstein Co.
- Genre: Action/Adventure
- Run time: 90 minutes
- MPAA rating: R
- MPAA explanation: pervasive strong violence and some sexual content
- Last updated: September 21, 2019
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