Tom Yum Goong: The Protector

This was the official website for the 2005 movie, Tom Yum Goong: The Protector which was later renamed, Thai Dragon.
Content is from the site's archived pages and other outside sources.

Synopsis

TOM-YUM-GOONG is the story of a young man named Kham (Tony Jaa) whose life is turned upside down when an international mafia syndicate, based in Australia, captures his two beloved elephants and smuggles them thousands of kilometers away to Sydney. The two elephants are far more than mere animals to Kham and his father. They are part of his family and were being prepared to be presented as a token of devotion to his Majesty the King of Thailand. The only way Kham can possibly save the animals is by venturing into a foreign land for the first time.

Taking on a mafia group to rescue two elephants from a foreign country presents a huge challenge, even for a martial arts master like Kham. Despite the help of Sergeant Mark (Petchthai Wongkamlao), a Thai police Sergeant based in Australia , and Pla (Bongkuch Kongmalai), a Thai girl forced into modern day slavery, the going gets tough. They must take on the ruthless gang of Madame Rose (Jing Xing), whose henchmen include Johnny (Johnny Nguyen), a Vietnamese thief and martial arts expert, and the hulking TK (Nathan Jones).

Kham has no choice but to risk his own life for the animals he loves…

 

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Production Notes

“Tom Yum Goong” is the reunion of Prachya Pinkaew, Panna Ritthikrai, Panom Yeerum (Tony Jaa) and Mum Jokmok. It is expected to become another mega blockbuster film with the budget of 300 million baht (Second highest in Thailand 's film history, since “Suriyothai”.) The movie was shot in Australia and the production design is even more fantastic that that of “Ong-Bak”.

This is what Prachya Pinkaew said when he was interviewed about “Tom Yum Goong', his fourth film;

“The film is made to reflect Thailand and Thai people. In ‘Ong-Bak', I tell about the art of Thai boxing and things that Thai people respected as holy. So in ‘Tom Yum Goong', I will tell about the noble tradition and culture of Thailand , as well as the bond between Thai people that foreigners do not know. Elephants have been a part of Thai families since ancient time, and the fact is, they are still a part of Thai people's lives today. Thai boxing and elephants are related. It has been that way since the old time. As for Tony Jaa, he will show more Thai boxing in this film. We add new movements that did not appear in “Ong-Bak”. The story of the film is contemporary. The audience will watch the art of Thai boxing against Wu shu, K1 and Capoeira. I think the shooting of this film is better prepared than the shooting of “Ong-Bak”. The film will continue to show the art of Thai boxing which the audience around the world is crazy about.”

The famous lead actor, Tony Jaa, said

“For ‘Ong-Bak', we promoted that there was no sling and no stunt. As a result, Thai boxing and I become well-known to the world. I want to thank the people who inspired me; Bruce Lee, Jet Lee, and Professor Panna. Before acting in “Tom Yum Goong”. I have spent two years learning more about Thai boxing and come to see the true beauty of this art. It's really worth putting on a film, especially the set of boxing movement called “Muay Koshasan” or “Elephant boxing”. It is an ancient art, focusing on the act of hurling, pressing, grabbing, and breaking. There are also the boxing movements which imitate the movement of elephant, such as, Elephant Stab, Arawan Upper-cut, Break the Elephant's nose, etc. Both Thai and foreign audience will surely see some new and refreshing actions in this film. They won't be disappointed.”

Tom Yum Goong is still under the concept of “No Sling. No Stunt” with real and forceful actions from the no.1 actor, Tony Jaa , that everyone has been waiting for. This time he will fight Nathan Jones (the giant warrior who wrestles against Brad Pitt in Troy ), Johnny Nguyen (Spiderman Stunt), Jing Xing (Chinese actress with a flexible body as her weapon), Jon Foo and Lateef Crowder. For the first time in a motion picture, there will be fighting scenes between Thai boxing and woo zoo, K1 boxing, and Capoeira (Brazilian martial art).


The Director of Martial Art and Stunt Choreographer, Panna Ritthikrai, talks about this film;

Although we still use the concept of ‘No sling, No Stunt'same as ‘Ong-Bak', there are many important changes. First, we have a very high budget. We have everything we dream of in the making of this film. For example, 80% of the films are shot in Australia . We wanted to have a shot when Jaa jump high into the air with Harbour Bridge as background. It's really difficult to be able to do the shooting in that location but we did it. For ‘Tom Yum Goong', we did a research for new boxing movement and we got plenty of them. We focus on the elephant movement, which were used by the four royal bodyguards (Jaturongkabaht) who protect the King in the battle filed, each one guarding each leg of the King's elephant. When they lose their swords in the battle, they will use these boxing movements to fight. I have seen all of them in Tom Yum Goong. It's really impressing!”

Moreover, there is something in the great action film “Tom Yum Goong” that makes it even more hot and spicy. The audience will be surprised and impressed with their jaws hang down by “the 4-minute action scene with no cutting”. In this scene, Jaa will fight half a hundred villains all by himself from the first floor to the fourth floor of a building. The director has also mentioned about this surprising action scene just to make the fan even more eager to see it.

“We know that the audience must expect a lot from “Tom Yum Goong”, in terms of story and actions. We have prepared lots of that. There is a long-take scene, four minutes of action without cutting. This is ordinary in western film but this is the first time that the long take will be full of martial art. Four minutes of fighting, no one has ever done that before. You cannot find any other actors that can do it. The difficult thing about long take is that there must be no mistake in action and shooting. If there is a single mistake, then we'll have to start over from the beginning. The fact that this is an action movie makes it more difficult. The camera must follow the actors and the actors must know their turn well. At first, I didn't believe that Jaa could do it, but he really did.”

Beside the producer team and actor team from “Ong-Bak”, this “Tom Yum Goong” also has many professional people such as the producer “Sukanya Wongsathapat”, the director of photography “Nathawut Kittikun”, the production coordinator/art director “Ukkadej Kaewkot”, and the co-writer “Kongdej Jaturonrassamee”.

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Reviews

The Joy of Jaa

The Thai martial artist returns in The Protector.

By Dana Stevens Slate movie critic
September 8, 2006
As a true connoisseur neither of pornography nor of martial arts movies, I must say that, in both genres, I prefer the ones that at least pretend to have some sort of story. The pizza guy can't just ring the doorbell and start getting it on with the horny housewife; they have to embark on some sort of adventure first, or at least share the pizza he's delivering. And the iron-limbed, brick-breaking martial-arts hero can't just go around whaling on random aggressors; he has to have a righteous purpose behind his actions, preferably involving a woman's honor or the spirits of his ancestors. Not, of course, that these thin premises make the sex or action scenes any more plausible. It's just more fun when you have to locate the seams between the movie's ostensible excuse for existing and its true raison d'être: the crashing of body against body, the meeting of immobile object and unstoppable force.

I can't imagine a more immobile object than an elephant or a more unstoppable force than Tony Jaa, the 30-year-old master of an art called Muay Thai who came to international attention with Ong-bak (made in 2003 and released in the United States last year). The Protector, Jaa's second collaboration with director Prachya Pinkaew, brings Jaa and elephants together, with results whose success depends on your interest in both. In Ong Bak, Jaa's character left his rural Thai village to seek the stolen head of a sacred idol in Bangkok. In The Protector, he leaves it to go to Sydney to rescue two stolen elephants, one full-grown, one still a baby, who are sacred to his family.

After providing Jaa's character, Kham, with a motive everyone can feel good about—who wouldn't want to protect a sweet baby elephant from glowering meanies?—The Protector can go about its business of providing Tony Jaa with elaborate settings in which to crush his enemies' heads with his elbows, fly above them in multiple somersaults, and hurl his seemingly indestructible body at everything from roadside billboards to trash-talking wrestlers to the crime kingpin Madame Rose (played by the Chinese actress Xing Jing, a male-to-female transsexual). He also has two memorable encounters, one of them inside a burning Buddhist temple, with an Australian behemoth named Nathan Jones, who's becoming international cinema's go-to large man (he played the giant Brad Pitt's Achilles defeated in the opening scene of Troy). All of this is done without any wires, tricks, or special effects whatsoever: That's really Tony sliding under that truck and hanging from that helicopter.

Unlike Jackie Chan's, Jaa's fight choreography (created with stuntman and action director Panna Rittikrai) doesn't have a lot of wit to it. Jaa's Muay Thai style tends more toward straight-ahead, poker-faced ass-whomping, though some scenes do earn a laugh from their sheer over-the-top scale—as when Kham single-handedly leaves an entire roomful of men writhing on the floor, clutching their wounds. If Chan (who has a cameo in The Protector) seems made of rubber, with the face of a melancholic clown, Jaa is pure steel, with the face of a stubborn country boy.

The Protector also reteams Jaa with his sidekick from Ong-bak, Petchtai Wongkamlao, a stout, craggy comic actor who's sort of the Thai Edward G. Robinson. Wongkamlao plays Mark, a Thai cop working in Sydney, who first arrests Kham on false suspicion of murder, then winds up helping him recover the kidnapped pachyderms.

In truth, only hard-core martial-arts fans will be able to keep from squirming in their seats with boredom through at least some parts of this 82-minute kablammo-fest. But there is one sequence that's cinematically, as well as physically, spectacular. When Kham and Mark bust into a four-story Thai nightclub that's also a brothel, a gangsters' hideout, and a restaurant specializing in endangered species (cut to a fat white guy swallowing a live scorpion), a Steadicam follows Jaa's progress up the steps as he kicks, head-butts, and claws his way to his beloved baby elephant. The sequence is filmed as one continuous four-minute shot, and the balletic choreography of both camera and bodies is something to behold. The moment when Jaa (whose family keeps pet elephants in real life!) finally buries his face in his little gray friend's fuzzy head is the closest The Protector ever comes to having a character-driven scene. But when you've got a male lead who can break heads like Tony Jaa, a little bit of story line goes a long way.

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Tom-Yum-Goong

Derek Elley
Variety Top Critic

Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa comes out of his corner with bone-crunching power. Pic has everything but a decent script and involving lead perf. Boasting the same refreshing avoidance of CGI and wire work as "Ong-Bak," slickly made production is more consciously aimed at the international market, with its Australian setting and multilingual dialogue.

A correction was made to this review on Jan. 17, 2006.

Thai martial arts star Tony Jaa comes out of his corner with bone-crunching power in “Tom-Yum-Goong,” a socko action follow-up to “Ong-Bak: Muay Thai Warrior” that has everything but a decent script and involving lead perf. Boasting the same refreshing avoidance of CGI and wire work as “Warrior,” slickly made production (largely by the same team) is more consciously aimed at the international market, with its Australian setting and multilingual dialogue. Muscular biz looks likely among chopsocky fans, though Jaa’s machine-like screen persona and pic’s lack of mollifying humor, compared with classic Hong Kong product, could limit broader appeal.

Much-anticipated title was released in most key Asian markets (apart from Japan) last August, taking a reportedly massive 300 million baht ($7.5 million) in its native Thailand and a handsome but not boffo HK$11.6 million ($1.5 million) in Hong Kong. European debut is Feb. 8 in France, where it will open in a version some 15 minutes shorter than the original. No date has been announced for release Stateside, where it goes out via the Weinstein Co.

Ancillary looks to be especially strong, as most Asiaphiles will want the original 110-minute version. However, so far film is available only on an unsubtitled Thai DVD and a Chinese-dubbed Hong Kong VCD (reviewed here). Stringent precautions have been taken against local piracy, and pic even contains a fleeting scene in which a passer-by castigates her b.f. for buying a bootlegged movie.

Opening two reels — beautifully shot and scored, but leisurely paced — introduce Kham (Jaa), a country lad who grows up with two elephants and is taught muay thai martial arts by his dad. Alas, when dad enters a selection process to have his elephants presented to the king, underworld heavies kidnap the two pachyderms.

At the 18-minute mark, pic suddenly cranks into action, with an explosive fight in a restaurant where Kham has traced the villains, followed by a speedboat chase that’s a showcase of zippy staging and editing. Upshot is that Kham finds the Dumbos have been shipped Down Under.

Cut to Sydney, two weeks later, and Kham arrives armed with only a picture of a restaurant, Tom-Yum-Goong, in Thai Town. All paths gradually lead to transsexual Madame Rose, played with relish by former Shanghai Ballet star (and real-life transsexual) Jin Xing.

Highlight of what’s basically a string of fight scenes comes at the hour mark: a jaw-dropping four-minute single take, with the steadicam almost a partner in the action, in which Kham battles his way up a luxurious four-story brothel, disposing of 30 heavies along the way.

With almost zero character detail, film starts to become repetitive in its second half, despite the inventive fight choreography (enhanced by bone-snapping sound effects) and Jaa’s genuine skills (unenhanced by special effects). The final showdown, in which Kham individually takes on 50 of Madame Rose’s black-suited bodyguards, is a show-stopper.

Jaa, 30, combines the gymnastics agility of Jackie Chan with the physical intensity of Bruce Lee. But so far, he fatally lacks an involving screen persona and any sense of humor.

As in “Ong-Bak,” the color comes from the supports, especially Phettkai Wongkamlao as an ethnic local cop; unfortunately, Wongkamlao’s English delivery is far from clear at times. Jin is aces as the Fu Manchu-like villainess, though isn’t given a fitting fight finale. Bongkod Kongmalai is pretty but bland as Pla, a whore who shelters Kham.

With an enhanced budget, tech package is considerably smoother than that of “Ong-Bak.” Pic’s title is also the name of a well-known Thai dish, a hot-and-sour shrimp soup.

 

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Confessions of a Tom Yum Goong Movie Fan

I must have watched this movie a half dozen times. And why not, it's from my home country of Thailand. Love the Thai Elephant walking on the Harbor Bride. My wife has about had it. I'm suppose to be looking for a rug cleaning company since we are having a baby shower here in about a month and the wife wants the apartment looking spiffy. I keep sneeking looks at a look at the scene where Jaa is fighting half a hundred villains all by himself from the first floor to the fourth floor of a building. Opps she caught me again. OK I will do a search for rug cleaning 10128, Manhattan - that's the zip for the upper west side of NYC. That's pretty specific. Ah found one and they look like a great match. Rug Pro, I like the name. Hope they live up to the copy on their site. Update: our oriental and other carpets are all clean. Several of the silk carpet needed new fringes and RugPro repaired them as well. I am back in the den relaxing and watching Thai Dragon again with some friends who are Thai boxing freaks. Life is good.

 

Trivia

*** Tom Yum Goong is the third reunion of the five marketers: Somsak Techarattanaprasert, Prachya Pinkaew, Panom Yeerum (Tony Jaa), Mum Jokmok and Panna Ritthikrai, after they have worked together in Ong-Bak, and Bodyguard Na Liam.

*** With the budget of more than 300 million baht, Tom Yum Goong become the second highest budget film in the history of Thai film industry, since Suriyothai.

*** The film had taken 2 years in making and used more than 600 rolls of film.

*** More than 80% of the film are shot in Sydney, Australia, with budget more than 100 million baht.

*** Elephant and the art of Thai boxing, the two symbols of Thailand , are blended perfectly into the fighting movements of Tony Jaa. You won't be able to blink when you see it.

*** It is the first time that a Thai Elephant walking on the Harbor Bride is recorded in a film. This will surely become a part of film-making history.

*** Jaa Panom Yeerum has a surprise gift for his fan. A 4-minute longshot action scene with no cut where he will fight the villains unceasingly from the first to the fourth floor of Tom Yum Goong restaurant.

*** A long-tailed boat hitting a helicopter, an action scene specially designed for Tom Yum Goong, even better than the took-took chasing scene in Ong-Bak.

*** The production team closed the central towns of Surin and Bureerum provinces to create a Songkran festival scene. This is a Thai tradition that draws a lot of interest from foreigners. There are about 1000 extras joining this chaotic scene of elephant chase.

*** Another great scene which is proudly presented to you is the action scene in a Thai temple in Sydney . Tony Jaa will fight his main villains; Lateef, Jon Foo, Nathan Jones, and their men. The background is the burning temple with streams of water squirting in to quench the fire. The blending of water, fire and action creates one of the most rare and beautiful scene.

*** One more great action scene, the X Game, when a bunch of villains fierce fully fight Tony Jaa.

*** Johnny Nguyen, Nathan Jones, Jin Sing, Jon Foo, and Lateef , actors and experts of martial art from American-Vietnam , Australia , China , Britain , and Brazil are cast as the villains who will play against Tony Jaa.

*** You better keep your eyes opened wide while watching the fight between Tony Jaa and Nathan Jones , the Australian WWA and UPW wrestler who is called “Mega Man”. This is Thai boxing against K1. Very cool stuff.

*** The American-Vietnamese Johnny Nguyen , had been selected in a national team of woo zoo twice. He is professional in all types of martial art: Aikido, Kung fu, Tai chi, Sword, Spear, etc. He plays the owner of Tom Yum Goong restaurant, the main villain of the film.

*** Rick the police (Mum's buddy) is played by David Asavanond , the young famous VJ and the grandson of Amara Asavanond, a top-leading actress of Thailand.

*** Tom Yum Goong is the first Thai film that had been bought by the world market even before the camera started shooting.


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