September 08, 2006


an 84 minute mess called THE PROTECTOR TOM YUM GOONG is from the same team that brought us ONG BAK - Panna Rittikrai, Prachya Pinkaew and Tony Jaa - but the most important credit of all is missing: the editors who turned a 109 minute so-so movie called TOM YUM GOONG into an 84 minute mess called THE PROTECTOR.

TOM YUM GOONG is not a very good movie, and some re-editing could have helped it tremendously, but after having 15 minutes stripped out by T1, its international sales agent, and a further 10 minutes removed by The Weinstein Company it is totally incomprehensible.

The movie itself is the kind of thing that you have to see twice to truly appreciate the depths of ridiculosity to which it sinks. A waitress in a greasy spoon Chinese restaurant says, "There's a door in the back that goes to a VIP room but we aren't allowed in." Said door is opened, leading to a four story bar/restaurant designed around an atrium and with a full service kitchen full of exotic animals up top.

The action choreography isn't as sharp as it could be. Tony Jaa is a terrific physical fighter but the choreography in this movie doesn't serve him as well as the choreography in ONG BAK where the focus was on one-on-one match-ups. Here the focus is more on one-against-many fights and while there's a great warehouse scene up front (where would action movies be without warehouses?), the rightfully classic one-take, four minute fight in the VIP room, and a few nice bits here and there, the climactic action scene is a let-down.

a 109 minute so-so movie called TOM YUM GOONGSure, you wonder where they got so many giants. And sure, it's fun to see someone bodyslam a baby elephant. But when waves of baddies assault Jaa only to have their joints popped and crushed into bone powder all 80 of them obligingly line up and come at him one at a time. It's like watching a chiropractor clear out his waiting room on a busy day. It doesn't help that Tony Jaa holds the screen with all the magnetism of a chartered accountant. In person, Jaa is a very charming individual but so far that charisma hasn't been successfully translated onscreen.

By the time the movie has been re-edited by two different sets of editors from two different companies it is a mess. A perfectly fine new score has been added, as well as a couple of harmless tracks by the RZA, including a dirty R&B bump n'grind number over the sexy scene in the giant jacuzzi full of mud. Why anyone would set a seduction scene in a mud bath is a mystery to me. Has anyone watched this scene and gotten turned on as the oily mud clings to the faces and necks of the actors? I had to reach down my own throat and manually suppress my gag reflex when an actress in hoochie mama lingerie started dirty dancing while waist deep this nasty muck.

If this movie was already begging for its life, the new edit drives a stake right through its heart. Pivotal characters appear and disappear for no reason, without explanation. Fight scenes are trimmed, throwing them off balance. Dramatic build-ups are removed causing scenes to come out of nowhere and to end with all the grace of a channel being changed. A good deal of the movie is still in Thai but what dubbing there is is sporadic and doesn't always make much sense, especially with Mum Jokmok, whose English line-readings are allowed to stay for some of his dialogue while the rest sounds like plummy, mid-80's martial arts dubbing. My biggest question is: did anyone watch this movie before it was released? And if they did, were they drunk?

The worst thing about this movie are the reviews which dismiss it as junk but then say that martial arts and action fans will still love it. How desperate for a fix do they think we are? ONG BAK was no great shakes but it's THE SEVENTH SEAL compared to THE PROTECTOR, which is going to be the most widely released Thai film in North America. And that's enough to give you a headache all weekend long.

September 8, 2006 at 09:24 AM in Film Reviews | Permalink


Answered all my questions and then some. Why would anyone even think to cut a single frame out of the fights in a movie where the only things that aren't awful are the fights and the cinematography? I guess you can't take the Scissors out of the Scissorhands for long before withdrawal sets in. Then it's only a matter of time before the craving for a film-raping fix gets too strong to ignore. Depression sets in, followed by a wicked case of the shakes - and then, invariably, a film has to die to make the symptoms of withdrawal recede. Going cold turkey is never easy. Sure, you can wreck something like THE MAGIC ROUNDABOUT aka DOOGAL, but it just doesn't provide the same buzz as wrecking live action Asian films does.

That read like the description of a movie worthy of the title KILL ZONE. Suddenly I am very nervous about what DRAGON DYNASTY #3 will be, and what will be done to it. Can't wait for Bey Logan to start talking in interviews about how much of an improvement over TOM YUM GOOONG this movie called THE PROTECTOR is, and how the Weinsteins are the only people in the world who love Asian cinema more than he does, and how CITY OF VIOLENCE is ten times better now that it's 70 minutes long and called ACES GO PLACES.

Posted by: Rhythm-X | Sep 8, 2006 10:00:37 AM

Postscript - at least the poster doesn't have Tony Jaa mutilated in Photoshop to look like a white guy a la SHAOLIN SOCCER. It's actually the best looking poster they've ever done for a martial arts movie - not that that ultimately is saying anything considering the posters they usually give us. But definitely a step in the right direction.

Posted by: Rhythm-X | Sep 8, 2006 10:06:32 AM

a complete joke...to this day i don't know the reason that asian movies that are released in the states are edited to the point of confusing the viewer....i pray that fearless isn't screwed in a similar way.....

Posted by: Dvdjamm | Sep 8, 2006 10:50:12 AM

Beign Thai, is Tony Jaa still eligible to have the trailers for all his movies set to "Everybody was Kungfu Fighting?"

Posted by: Keith | Sep 8, 2006 11:24:31 AM

Harvey Weinstein is a moron. Aside from the fact that he should burn a thousand deaths for the venom he has spewed on Asian cinema (and you should be ashamed of yourselves Bey Logan and Brian White for agreeing to help his image by supporting that label to make him look like a saint for Asian films), the man has zero clue on how to release Asian films to the American public.

Forget the cuts and massive alterations for a second. Somehow he saw SPL and felt that it should go straight to DVD. However, he saw Tom Yum Goong (nearly unwatchable in it's original version) and felt that it had potential to be put through a whole 9 yards of a full nation wide theatrical release campaign.

And if he made the movie worse than it already was (something I find difficult to believe)...well, then I guess he should be given a medal for at least being consistent.

Posted by: the running man | Sep 8, 2006 5:47:58 PM

SPL was good but I don't think it's the shining beacon of Hong Kong action films that people have been making it out to be. Incomprehensible Ong Bak may have been, but it is far more entertaining fight-wise and it has less tedious moral prancing about.

Posted by: Talvalin | Sep 15, 2006 9:15:31 AM

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