Tom-Yum-Goong or the Americanized title "The Protector" by far brings the martial arts genre of movies to a whole new level. Tom-Yum-Goong stars international martial arts superstar Tony Jaa as Kham a country boy from the rural areas of Thailand. The movie has a simple plotline in which the main character goes to a festival to show off his elephant at the elephant festival before the King of Thailand.
But the inspectors turn out to be poachers and illegal animal traders in disguise. It’s a quick transition from the first few minutes of the movie from Thailand all the way to Sydney, Australia. I would consider Tom-Yum-Goong as your typical martial arts film but they the people put forth a lot of good effort into this. If you can look beyond the martial arts fighting, one can understand the symbolism of Tom-Yum-Goong represents.
The story symbolizes these interesting aspects:
1. The movie represents the age old heroic underdog going up against a much bigger and powerful goliath. Whereas Tony Jaa’s character is a simple country boy who has to go up against a large-scale crime syndicate trying to take over the city of Sydney.
2. The journey to rescue the elephants represents how important the elephants are to the Thai people. The story of Tom-Yum-Goong also represents the journey to protect an old way of life from extinction.
3. Tom-Yum-Goong brings to light and resurrection of an ancient style of Muay Thai in which its techniques are derived from movements of an elephant.
Tony Jaa has done a very good job executing the techniques from this long-lost style of Muay Thai. The proof is in the fight scenes. When I saw the techniques applied in the various fights in the movie, I was pumped up, yet at the same time I wanted to cringe in pain. The application of techniques from this dangerous style of Muay Thai had gotten me convinced. The director has definitely done a very good job in bringing a style of Muay Thai into the limelight.
Some notable fight scenes include Tony Jaa taking on the Capioerist Lateef Crowder and former WWE wrestler Nathan Jones. Both Crowder and Jones put on very good martial arts performances. Tony Jaa pulled off very great performances in fight scenes and in stunts where he wasn’t allowed to use any cables. Credit should also go to Vietnamese Wu Shu master Johnny Nguyen for his exhibition of Wu Shu techniques and his portrayal of the Vietnamese Triad Captain, Johnny.
Transexual ballerina Xing Jing does an excellent job portraying Madame Rose, the main antagonist in Tom Yum Goong. All the actors had put on very great performances. What got me intrigued about Xing Jing was before the sexual replacement surgury at the age of 28, she was a male who was a military colonel in the Chinese Army. To this day, Xing Jing is still combatting the prejudices of the current Communist regime of China.
Tony Jaa and his mentor Panna Rittikai have done an amazing job with the choreography of stunts and fights throughout the movie. Prachya Pinkaew has done an excellent job directing the entire movie.
Overall, Tom-Yum-Goong is a movie worth watching. If you’re a history and mythology buff, this is one movie to check out. If you’re a martial arts enthusiast, you should also check this movie out. If you have a fascination with the various styles of Muay Thai, Tom-Yum-Goong is worth checking out.
As a practitioner of Muay Thai, I enjoyed Tom-Yum-Goong very much. It showed how Muay Thai isn’t represented in most martial arts movies. I hope that movies such as Ong Bak and Tom-Yum-Goong will pave the way for movies that bring other styles of martial arts into the spotlight.