The Protector, Tom Yum Goong, Warrior King (2005)
Directed by: Prachya Pinkaew
Written by: Joe Wannapin, Kongdej Jaturanrasamee, Napalee, Piyaros Thongdee
Starring: Bongkoj Khongmalai, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Tony Jaa
Tom Yum Goong (2005)
Known as Warrior King in the UK, and The Protector in the US.
Compared to Ong Bak, I think Tom Yum Goong‘s plot works better as a full storyline than Ong Bak, but it is equally as breathtaking with the wonderous choerographed martial arts and stunts of Tony Jaa.
The opening 15 minutes or so introduces us to Kham and his father, as we see Kham grow up with the towering elephant, Por Yai. I’ve always loved elephants and to see the bond between them and people is truly stunning. After Por Yai spies himself a mate, in a subtle, comical scene, baby Korn is introduced, which then becomes Kham’s brother, as such. The human father and son, along with the elephant father and son, grow up as one big happy family and when that’s suddenly taken away from them, it’s truly tragic. I found it quite difficult to watch and it near brought me to tears, and still does thinking about it now. With such a striking opener that tugs at your heart-strings, you will be cheering Kahm on as he stops at nothing to retrieve his beloved elephants.
Initially in Thai, the language switches to English as Kham heads to Sydney, Australia. There’s a fantastic blend of Asian within the Australian setting, with Thai, Chinese and Viatnemese featuring….oh, and Laos 😉 Our hero Kham never speaks a word of English but we are greeted by a familiar face in the form of Thai-born police sergeant, Mark, played by Petchtai Wongkamlao, who starred as George in Ong Bak. From the offset, Petchtai Wongkamlao provides comic relief as show-off but efficient officer Mark, who splits his time talking in English and Thai, depending on the needs of his character and scene. Whilst there’s not a huge amount of scenes between them, it is a joy to see both Jaa and Wongkamlao working with each other again, with Wongkamlao’s character this time a much more friendlier figure than that of Ong Bak‘s George.
As Kham tackles the dangerious crime syndicate in a foreign country, we expect some fantastic action sequences and boy oh boy, you will not be disappointed. Back are the flying knee lands to the face and the acrobatic somersaults, but we have a new blend of Muay Thai from Jaa, with a hint of Japanese Ju Jitsu style self defence techniques. Prepare for arm-snapping, limb-popping, wrist-breaking and every other snap and crack you can think of as Jaa takes on Wushu, Kung Fu and Capoeira trained enemies. This is truly a martial artists wet-dream, and action film fans will be dazzled by it’s intense choreographed scenes. One in particular that springs to mind is when Kham enters a multi-floored building and proceeds up the staircase, taking anyone out who gets in his way. This must be the longest, single, continuous shot of a martial arts scene put to film. I read that it took 5 takes over a period of a month to get this spot on and I’ll tell you now, it will blow your mind!
Heartbreaking, funny and action-packed, Tom Yum Goong explores many emotions and hits every single note spot on. If you’re looking for a martial arts film that has it all, then I don’t think you can much better than this.