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  Warrior King Elephantastic
Year: 2005
Director: Prachya Pinkaew
Stars: Tony Jaa, Petchtai Wongkamlao, Bongkoj Khongmalai, Xing Jing, Nathan Jones, Johnny Nguyen, Lateef Crowder, Jon Foo, Damien De Montemas, David Asavanond, Sotorn Rungruaeng
Genre: Action, Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  7 (from 1 vote)
Review: Kham (Tony Jaa) grew up in a quiet village in Thailand where his great love was the elephants his father took care of. The elder of the two elephants had a son with another elephant, but she was killed by a stray bullet fired by poachers when they attempted to kidnap their baby. This cements the bond between Kham and the two survivors so when they get the chance to be presented to the King at a local festival, he and his father jump at it. However, all is not what it seems and the organisers are in fact villains who shoot Kham's father when Kham is looking for the escaped younger elephant and end up kidnapping them both. The father doesn't die, but now Kham has a mission to undertake: find out what has happened to the animals and bring them back home.

The team behind the martial arts hit Ong-Bak reunited for this similar exercise in bone crunching skills once again showcasing the talents of Tony Jaa, talents that don't extend to any great acting abilities but where it counts - that is, beating people up who thoroughly deserve it - he was without doubt one of the most exciting practitioners in his field. Working from director Prachya Pinkaew's story, there is quite a lot of plot to wade through as the filmmakers are undaunted by putting anyone off by being too complicated. The end result is a mishmash of comedy, tear-jerking drama and, of course, the over the top violence which most viewers will be wishing to see.

So what has happened to the animals? Well, this film informs us that elephants are national symbols of Thailand and as such they get especially sentimental over them. And why not? Everyone likes elephants after all. Unless you've just had your home demolished by one, you wouldn't be too keen on them then, but for everyone else, these majestic beasts are the tops. Unfortunately after the first twenty minutes you don't see much of them here, mainly because they've been spirited away to Australia, Sydney to be exact. Therefore Kham (who is not feeling particularly calm after all this) has to pack his trunk and say goodbye to his homeland, where he meets a whole bunch of people who wish to do him harm.

As a subplot, police sergeant Mark (Petchtai Wongkamlao), serving as comic relief, is already in Sydney as a local lawman, and he is tied up in more police corruption as the film goes on, corruption linked to the gang who have taken the elephants. This gang is led by Madame Rose (Xing Jing), who may not be a madame after all, and has a host of rough, tough bad guys at her beck and call. The combat sequences are well up to the standard of Ong-Bak, with Jaa chased around a warehouse where he literally walks up walls to escape (and no wires used either), and a mesmerising, meticulously planned fight where Kham battles his way up a few floors of the villain's den, all in one take. And the elephants? Well, it's a vegetarians' nightmare as they have been carried off to an exclusive restaraunt that caters for clientele with a taste for endangered species - can Kham save them in time? Well, yes and no. Featuring a man, a big man, throwing an elephant, a baby elephant, through a window, Warrior King is not your ordinary martial arts beat 'em up, even if it does settle into the structure of a computer game.

Aka The Protector, or Tom Yum Goong in its orginal language.

[The Premier Asia Region 2 double disc DVD includes as special features interviews with the flm's cast and crew, documentaries, a multi angle sequence and trailers.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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Prachya Pinkaew  (1962 - )

Thai action director who made his debut with the hard-hitting martial arts film Ong-Bak. His follow up was the similarly themed Tom Yum Goong aka Warrior King, aka The Protector, again featuring stuntman-turned-action star Tony Jaa. He went on to a string of tries at topping his biggest hit, including Chocolate (making a star of JeeJa Yanin), Raging Phoenix, Elephant White and The Kick.

 
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