Boredom Is the Ever-Present Danger in Bangkok
- 2008 8 Sep
DVD Release Date: January 6, 2009
Theatrical Release Date: September 5, 2008
Rating: R (for violence, language and some sexuality)
Run Time: 99 min.
Director: Danny Pang and Oxide Pang
Actors: Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Yeung, Panward Hemmane, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul,
Remakes of Asian films have been on the upswing in recent years. Horror films like The Grudge and The Ring have translated successfully to American screens, while The Departed, a remake of the Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs, took the Best Picture Oscar a couple of years ago.
With that artistic imprimatur added to the profitable box-office tally of many of the American versions of these films, it’s no surprise to see yet another remake of a brooding Asian film in theaters. In this case, however, there are warning signs about the latest film’s prospects.
First, the filmmakers don’t have a successful track record on these shores. Directors Danny and Oxide Pang struck out with The Messengers, their first effort aimed at North American audiences. Even less effective was the remake of the duo’s The Eye, which, to their credit, the brothers did not direct. Despite their dismal American track record, actor Nicolas Cage has seen something he likes in the Pang brothers. His interest led him to produce Bangkok Dangerous, a remake of the brothers’ earlier Thai-language feature of the same name that had been turned into—wait for it—a star vehicle for Nicolas Cage!
Second, Bangkok Dangerous was not screened in advance for critics—a sign that the studio behind the film has no confidence in the finished product. Sure enough, Bangkok Dangerous is stagnant, the latest indication that the Pangs have lost any semblance of the filmmaking energy and conviction they once showed.
Cage stars as Joe, a hitman who, like Vin Diesel’s character in last week’s misguided Babylon A.D., takes on unsavory jobs for hire, and who, like that same Babylon A.D. character, lays out his code through voiceover at the beginning of the movie. Joe has four rules, all of which viewers will have heard before among the many previous movies about assassins, hit men, and mobsters who state their own skewed moral codes. By the time he gets to “Get out … before you become a target,” the audience might want to consider adopting the “get out” part for themselves and do something more productive with the subsequent 90 minutes.
Those who choose to stay must suffer through strained mentor/apprentice dialogue between Cage and his hired hand, Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), and an unconvincing romance between Joe and deaf/mute pharmacist Fon (Charlie Yeung).
The film has one interesting visual moment, but just one, when Fon discovers Joe’s darker side. Having presented Joe with a written note indicating how happy he makes her, Fon walks away with a smile as Joe, ambushed behind her by two thugs, dispatches the villains with brutal, bloody efficiency. Lost in the revelation of her feelings for Joe, and unaware of the noisy dance of death behind her, the deaf woman touches a splatter of blood on her shoulder. Her horrified enlightenment instantly overwhelms her naïve happiness. It’s not easy to watch, but it’s the only moment of emotional power in this flaccid action flick.
Films like this have, in the past, gotten by on looks and style, but there’s nothing new in Bangkok Dangerous, which caps its dreary running time with a downbeat ending that might have been more credible if the movie preceding it sustained any semblance of a pulse.
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- Drugs/Alcohol: Drinking; a man injects himself with drugs but later overcomes his addiction.
- Violence: A man is shot in the head, and blood pours out of it onto a table; a man is Tasered to death; a man treats a chest wound; a kickboxing match; a man is shot multiple times while in his car; a man on a motorcycle is knocked off by a baseball bat, then beaten severely; a man is forcibly drowned; reckless driving; verbal threats of violence toward women; further shootouts; a human limb is severed by a propeller and shown twitching; a man is strangled; a bomb destroys a house; suicide.
- Language/Profanity: Foul language, much of it revealed through English subtitles.
- Sex/Nudity: Women at a club dance in skimpy outfits; a man is shown having sex with two women at the same time; female nudity.
- Religion: Buddhist prayers are offered.