With Ong Bak, Tony Jaa brought a martial arts performance that was exciting, the kind that made you think you could go out and kick ass just because you watched. Anyone can kick ass with the right editing, but Jaa was the real deal. No ropes. No bullshit. It was like we got Bruce Lee back.

Sadly, with each movie since the thrill has fizzled. The Protector 2 is, at best, an apathetic “meh.”

Don’t get  me wrong, Tony Jaa is still every bit the bad-ass. The problem is, the movies have started to rely more on spectacle than on his talent. Part of that might have to do with the fact that the poor guy surely is a mass of broken bones, torn muscles, and bruised everything by the end of principle photography. I’m sure there’s only so much of his own blood his willing to spill before he says, “We’ll fix it in post.”

Still, The Protector 2 relies way too much on special effects, which are good if this was a youtube demo reel. While one goes to action flicks expecting to see some action, a film with Tony Jaa should really showcase him more than whatever software can make—mostly—convincing explosions.

Most of the fight scenes are ho-hum, too. RZA even gets to throw down, but he’s even less convincing that Keanu Reevesas a Kung Fu master. Wu Tang Clan may be noting to fuck with lyrically, but their Shaolin style rhymes don’t make for Shaolin style presence on screen.

There is one guy Jaa goes up against, Number 2 (Marrese Crump), the bad-ass in RZA’s gang, and those fight scenes are pretty cool. That is, up until they start to fight on a live subway track, their arms and legs sounding like light sabers. Not “like” as in “reminiscent of,” I mean they actually use light saber sounds.

Sigh.

It makes me incredibly sad to write this, but don’t waste you time on this. Especially if you’re a fan of Tony Jaa. I’m sure he’ll get it next time. I hope.

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