In 2003, a little unknown film from Thailand called Ong-Bak rocketed up the charts of action and martial arts film fanatics the world over, and for good reason. Unlike so many action movies these days, which make use of copious amounts of CGI, wire effects, stunt doubles, Ong-Bak was, for all intents and purposes, the real deal—no special effects, no wires, just lots and lots of jawdropping stuntwork and cringe-inducing martial arts choreography.
Not surprisingly, the film’s star—Tony Jaa—was soon being proclaimed as the successor to the throne of both Jackie Chan and Jet Li, due to his incredible abilities and seemingly suicidal risk-taking. All eyes were on Jaa’s next film, Tom Yum Goong (aka The Protector here in the States), and the clips that began popping up on the Web were certainly encouraging. Tom Yum Goong promised to be Ong-Bak turned up to eleven. Which, considering that Ong-Bak itself had turned the action movie thrills up to eleven, was something indeed.
But the fact is that Tom Yum Goong is a decidedly inferior film, and proof that Jaa isn’t quite up to Chan and Li’s levels as a martial arts star. He’s got the bone-breaking chops to be sure, but he’s missing the necessary charisma—and it doesn’t help when he’s backed by a storyline as weak and nonsensical as Tom Yum Goong‘s.