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'The Protector 2' sees Tony Jaa stumble and a star emerge in Marrese Crump

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The Protector 2

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New on home video is the return film for martial artist Tony Jaa, a sequel to his 2009 hit “The Protector”, “The Protector 2”. Jaa’s Kham has another elephant stolen from him (is this seriously a problem in Thailand?) and yet again leave a swath of broken bones and shattered egos behind him on his bloody oath for revenge. This time the kidnapping has all been a ruse to lure Kham out of hiding by LC (The RZA) in an attempt to lure Kham into fighting as part of his underground fighting ring, spurred by the actions of Kham in the first film.

The Protector 2 does many things new for a Tony Jaa film, and they are all hit and miss. Being that this is Jaa’s first film back after the disastrous Ong Bak 3, and his self-imposed religious sabbatical, and the producers and director must have been very nervous about the star’s drawing power and form as they have packed the film with high level co-stars both new and old. Joining in the fray this time is director Prachya Pinakew’s other discovery, the fiery and uber talented Jeeja Yanin from Chocolate. And returning for the sequel is Jaa’s Ong Bak cohort Petchtai Wongkamlao as police detective Mark. Yanin outshines Jaa in almost every instance and would likely run away with the film if not for the inclusion of one man. Marrese Crump is excellent in what could be a star making role as the villainous No. 2, half-brother of LC and his main henchman, as his fighting against both Jaa and Yanin is superb. This man needs his own vehicle now.

Where the film suffers greatly is in a storyline that is tedious and ridiculous, the first may have been ludicrous but at least it was simple and easy to follow, as the predicament of Kham’s elephant grows more preposterous and infuriating as the film goes along. I mean the elephant is somehow turned into0 a bomb for crying out loud. Adding to this downright stupidity is the awful performance of Rza as LC. His performance is laughably bad, and you will laugh at the insanely terrible fight between him and Kham where we are actually meant to see LC as a viable threat, and destroys any of the film’s momentum every time he appears. Add in some questionable uses of CGI, a first in a Jaa film, which sadly ruin some of the mystique of the man who performs all his own stunts and this film flounders in areas.

The film does feature some of Jaa’s signature stunts and some amazing action from Yanin and Crump that more than makes up for the film’s shortcomings. Not likely to end up in the same conversation as the original Ong Balk and Protector films in conversations about Jaa’s career, but the film deliver’s enough to remain satisfying. And now we have the Hollywood version of Jaa to look forward to with next summer’s Fast and Furious 7.

3 ½ out of 5

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