I had a bit of a rough birthday last Friday. I was alone with the kids, had a hefty amount of work to get done and had just gotten over a pretty gnarly stomach virus. So, when they both finally fell asleep, I thought I’d treat myself to an action movie. After flipping through Netflix, I came to The Protector 2, the sequel to one of my favorite action movies, and decided to give it a shot.
It was a major disappointment.
I’ve written several times about how much I like Tony Jaa’s amazing, athletic, intense films. Ong Bak and Protector are top notch examples of modern action classics. I’ve even watched movies that he only cameos in and got pretty bummed when he retired to become a monk for a few years. So, when I saw this movie on Netflix I was incredibly excited, but it was a total let down.
My first problem came about 20 minutes in during the first major fight scenes that finds Jaa’s Kham once again trying to find an elephant by beating his way through street thugs. This particular one takes place on a series of rooftops and involves a variety of bad guys attacking on dirt bikes. The problem is that, as soon as you introduce an idea like that, action fans are going to start comparing it to the one from Rumble In The Bronx.
In theory, Jaa and director Prachya Pinkaew (Ong-bak, The Protector) had the potential to top Chan’s work, but they fall incredibly far from the mark. The green screen work is awful as are the explosions and shotty compositions that are supposed to make you believe that a motorcycle is that close to a person’s head. Even if I’m mistaken in what I thought were poorly done special effects, there’s something about the film quality that makes me doubt what I’m seeing. And the key feature to movies like this is believing everything that’s happening (something that this director and star have done easily in films past). If I find myself thinking, “Is that real?” instead of “HOW’D THEY DO THAT!!!” something’s wrong.
I hoped that might be the end of the film’s problems, but that wasn’t the case. A later fight scene is set in a room on fire, something that happened in an early Jaa offering (I really can’t remember if it was Ong-bak or Protector, it’s impossible to keep those movies straight). They seemed intent on upping the ante by making a TON of fire, but instead it looks goofy because it’s all CGI. Oh and did I mention the fight that takes place in a zeppelin hanger for no apparent reason? Ugh.
But worst of all was the fact that, in some of these scenes, Jaa looked bored. In his earlier films, this guy stomped through his scenes like a force of nature intent on avenging elephants. Now, that sounds silly as I type it, but this dude was INTENT. There are whole scenes in this film where he looks like he’s waiting for lunch. It’s too bad because I’ve often thought that disappointing is worse than bad, but in this case, I think this movie is both and didn’t even bother finishing it.