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THE PROTECTOR

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In Tony Jaa's 2003 debut, Ong Bak, also directed by Prachya Pinkaew, the muay thai martial-arts expert had to kick the ass of half of Bangkok in order to retrieve a stolen Buddha statue. Now he's bustin' heads all over Sydney after some gangsters steal a potentially sacred elephant. The film was trimmed 30 minutes for its U.S. release, thus the plot, such as it is, feels rushed and chopped. What's left are the many fight sequences, the best of which showcase Jaa's acrobatic foot- and fist-work. But even these grow repetitive: How many times can we watch one man defeat 20 as cardboard sets break into pieces? Martial-arts godfather Jackie Chan appears, literally in passing, and the up-and-coming but broody Jaa would do well to note his antecedent's puckish charm, which helped propel him through many a formulaic actioner. In English, and Thai and various languages, with subtitles. (AH)

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