Tom Yum Goong | aka The Protector (2005) Review

"Tom Yum Goong" Thai Theatrical Poster

"Tom Yum Goong" Thai Theatrical Poster

AKA: Warrior King
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Producer: Prachya Pinkaew
Cast: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Xing Jing, Johnny Nguyen, Nathan Jones, Bongkoj Khongmalai, David Asavanond, Dean Alexandrou, Lateef Crowder, Damian De Montemas, Don Ferguson, Jon Foo, Ron Smoorenburg
Running Time: 110 min.

By Kioko

I’ve been a martial arts fan for over 20 years now. So from the Bruce Lee films, to Jackie Chan, to Jet Li, I have seen most of these trend setting films for the genre and have a deep appreciation for them. Right now Tony Jaa is unmatched, and will be for sometime now. No one can touch him. Tom Yum Goong confirms Tony Jaa as the next in line for the martial arts film genre. It’s simply outstanding!

Tony Jaa makes no apology for his brutal, creative, fresh style. He has the intensity of Bruce Lee, the choreographic genius of Jackie Chan, and the Rise-to-Stardom success of Jet Li. With all it’s predecessors in mind. This movie has things that have never been done before. Muy Thai boxing is taken to yet another authentic level. What’s more impressive is it’s practical yet entertaining use of it. Vs. Capoeria – an African Brazillian martial art form never before seen on film, Wu Shu Kung Fu, Pro Wrestling, and the historical Warrior(Elephant) Thai Boxing.

The camera is forgiving, pulling back for us to see what is going on. And the story, although quite simple, is more intricate than people give credit for It’s probably best to know Thai and Chinese – yet the English Dialogue keeps you somewhat informed. The theme of the boy’s relationship with the Elephant continues through the film, with a nice way of brining it together at the end. No complaints about a dragging storyline, the quick fade to blacks and cut to next scenes moved it right along for me.

You cannot be considered a martial arts film fan until you see this movie.

Kioko’s Rating: 10/10

By Yi Long

Saw Tom Yoon Gung in the theatre on opening’s day: GREAT FLICK. If you thought Ong-Bak was good, TYG is at least twice as good, action-wise. Looks like Tony has listened to all the criticism that was aimed at his first movie, and really did something about it.

I’m sure most of you are already familiar with the story so I won’t waste my limited online time discussing it… (Story is so-so, treating Sidney like it’s only a few square miles big, since the characters keep running into each other…)

The first fight-scene is in Thailand where Tony goes to battle with the gangsta’s responsible for kidnapping his elephants. Very hard, kick-ass action, although it only lasts maybe a couple of minutes, it’s pretty sweet and raw. It’s followed by a boat-chase scene which is OK, and has a funny moment in it as well when the boat jumps through a billboard… but the ending CGI (I think it was CGI) was a lil’ unconvincing; not that it really bothered me.

After the boat scene Tony heads to Sidney, where he quickly runs into the gang responsible for importing his stolen elephants. After a brief street light on/near the pier, in which he gets kicked around a bit, he enters the warehouse where the gang is, and has a Jackie Chan-style gang-fight, taking on tons of opponent who come in on bikes and skates; with Tony jumping and hopping through and making use of the environment, and it’s totally kick-ass. Tony outdoes Jackie here. There’s also a nice Dragons Forever style shot, where he makes a backflip which is filmed from above (Remember the Yuen Biao flip in Dragons Forever?) where he takes out a guy on a motorcycle. Anyway, the action is really sweet.

After that scene there’s some story blahblah…

Anyway, there’s a big scene where he enters the restaurant and Tony tries to outdo the brilliant one-shot, one-take John Woo (Hard Boiled) action scene, in which he moves through the building, taking out MANY bad guys, without a cut, which is really impressive since there are some heavy falls and some stunts etc involved. The fight sequences are pretty basic which is understandable, considering the complicity of the whole scene. Very VERY impressive, and extremely ambitious for such a young film-maker. Really shows he cares for giving his fans something special and new… which is great news of course

When he’s at the top of the building, the camera finally cuts and we get a very nice fight between Tony and a chinese guy, who is kind like the ringleader. He has some good skills, although he keeps doing the same (very nice looking) move a bunch of times…

First Tony gets kicked around a bit, then he gets angry and starts beating up ‘Johnny’ or whatever his name was… and a few henchmen join the fight. Good fight.

Story blahblah…

Burning buddhist temple, sprinkler has sprayed the ground FULL of water. First fight is between Tony and a black Capouira guy. Extremely impressive fight. One of the best in martial arts movie history, considering the moves and the water. Cinematography is very good.

It’s followed by a wushu guy with sword. Also pretty good, don’t really remember much of it but that’s cause I’m usually not that interested in weapon fights.

After that fight, the big TROY dude comes in, using the ancient martial art called Bob-Sapp-Do, which consists of storming forward, grabbing, and using haymaker etc. don’t remember much of that either, except Tony scarring the guys forehead with the Ong-Bak move where he jumps on the guy’s shoulders and the using both elbows on his head…

In the end-fight he takes on a zillion guys in black suits (no idea why they were in the building btw…), including a really really short cameo by Ron Smoorenburg, where he (Tony) uses Hapkido style grab-and-breaks, which is kind like Jet’s first fight in Fist of Legend (although I probably like Jet’s fight better simply because it’s a lil bit ‘cooler’, although I’m being very biased here of course, and this fight in TYG is MUCH longer and more impressive action- and choreography wise…

After the zillion guys, the TROY guy returns, aided by his two brothers Huey and Louie … plus the main bad villainess (haven’t really mentioned that transvestite before… mainly cause there wasn’t a need for it…) who uses a whip and a leather suit. It’s OK. I really don’t care much for these kind of fights where the main villains lack martial arts skills, since it kind limits the choreography.

Anyway, action of the movie was GREAT. Sadly, the version I saw didn’t have English subs (Gee, I wonder why…). Story-wise it was pretty basic, but I guess we’re all kind expecting that from these movies anyway. There are a bunch of plotholes (like ‘Johnny’ returning just to kill the main bad white guy, then never even returns in the movie…), and it’s a shame that the soundtrack isn’t anywhere as special or memorable as Ong-Bak’s.

There’s also a very bad CGI scene where they tell about the ancient warriors using that martial art he does; it’s really REALLY bad.

Really looking forward to seeing it again, though I’m sure it will be a while considering the @#%$ that has been going on with Ong-Bak thus far…

So, What we have here is a movie that in terms of budget and ambition is a lot bigger then Ong-Bak. We see real progress in what Tony is giving us, having listened to the criticisms of his first movie, notably that it had no real impressive villains, and that he used the slow-mo replay too often, and fixed it. The story is truly one big fucking mess, but as an action show-piece, this is fucking entertaining and impressive, and seeing Tony really giving his fans what they want, can only make you very excited about his future

Yi Long’s Rating: Verdict: 8/10; Crappy story, Amazing action-sequences: Must-see flick if you’re into action!

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