The Protector 

According to The Protector, for centuries in Thailand, herds of elephants have been kept so the king can draw supernatural and physical power from them for war and defense. A class of warriors is trained to guard the elephants from the king's enemies who wish to poach the pachyderms for their spiritual ivory. When two elephants are stolen and taken to Sydney, one of the protectors, Kham (Tony Jaa), follows and has to punch his way up the food chain of the local crime syndicate to retrieve them.

The Protector's derring-fu is captured by director Prachya Pinkaew, who teamed up with Jaa for 2003's Ong-bak: The Thai Warrior. The Protector is suffused with whacked-out visuals and crack editing, and sometimes the screen is so saturated with grainy color that the Sydney underworld looks as humid as a rain forest. Even so, Pinkaew knows his greatest asset is Jaa, and more often than not he stays out of the way and lets his lead lead. Together they produce two fight scenes that are instant classics.

Get past some of the plot's forays into silliness, occasional painful overacting, and the film's dialogue-dubbing inconsistencies inherent to the genre: Like Jaa, The Protector is one of the most exciting things seen in martial-arts film since Jackie Chan in Drunken Master II.

Now playing, multiple locations

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