Directed by Prachya Pinkaew. Thailand. 2005.

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If there's one lesson to be learnt from watching Warrior King it's never mess about with Tony Jaa's elephants.  He won't thank you for it.  In fact, he's liable to kick you in the face repeatedly and then snap your forearm in two. 

Much as he did in 2003's Thai hit Ong-Bak.  And like that film, do not expect a breathtakingly original plot.  Or sophisticated dialogue.  Or "acting" in any shape or form. 

For what it's worth, the basic synopsis is this: Kham (Tony Jaa) is the last in the line of traditional warriors who used to guard the King of Thailand's war elephants.  Nowadays these pachyderms are used to pull carts, push trees and squirt water in a playful fashion. 

Kham and his old dad travel to a fair where elephants are sized up and the finest presented to the King.  However, both their prized bull elephant and his baby heffelump are stolen by ne-er do wells and here starts 90 minutes of muay Thai ass-kicking in the pursuit of the stolen animals.  Kham ends up in Sydney where the fists fly, young Thai girls are smuggled and the English language is left as bruised and battered as the legion of nogoodniks Kham inevitably pounds the hell out of. 

Jaa never attempts English himself, but there's enough lamentable efforts from the supporting cast to generate some laughs both intentional and unintentional. Not that the Aussies involved cover themselves in glory either, although the elephants are professional throughout  Dialogue is generally along the lines of "Kill Him!", "Get Her!" and "Where are my elephants?" (that last one in particular). 

But whoever went to see a martial arts film expecting Fassbinder?  Warrior King provides a thoroughly entertaining example of the genre and if the production notes are correct in saying virtually no CGI or wires are involved you can only feel sorry for the Thai stuntmen and no window, door, fence or vase is left unsmashed if the camera lingers on it for more than two seconds.   

There are a series of impressive fight scenes that get progressively bigger, longer and sillier with a terrific finale involving the whip-wielding Madam Rosa (played by Chinese transsexual ballet dancer Jin Xing) and Australian man-mountain Nathan Jones. 

Lovers of cross-discipline fight scenes will enjoy the scrap with capoeirsta in the simultaneously burning AND flooded Buddhist temple and there's a four-minute long single take of Kham advancing into the baddies's inner sanctum while dishing out the justice -- someone give the steadycam operator an award. 

Warrior King is a violent, idiotic fun. Even if you're not fond of Kung Fu movies, it comes thoroughly recommended. 

Simon Melville
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