Bangkok Dangerous

Cage fails at action -- 1 star

Directed by Oxide Pang Chun & Danny Pang. September 2008, USA. R: 99 min.

(Originally published in buzz magazine on 9/7/2008)

Bangkok Dangerous — a remake by the same directors as the 1999 Thai original by the same title — starts off about as interesting as one could expect. We meet Joe (Nicholas Cage), a coldhearted (and mulleted in the style of Tom Hanks’s character in The Da Vinci Code) killer who travels the world to assassinate people for large sums of money. We learn via voiceover narration that Joe believes in no sense of right and wrong; his career and lifestyle taught him not to care about his targets or their families. With money as his only morality, he accepts a mission issued by Thai gangsters to eliminate four targets in Bangkok, including one popular politician.

We see the capital as a barrage of neon storefronts, swarming street salesmen out for a quick buck, Hawaiian-shirted American tourists with eyes and wallets agape and an infinite number of smooth surfaces reflecting the living specters of the city. Bangkok Dangerous may be graphically nice in several places, including a shootout staged in a red-lit room full of bottled water jugs, but its high points cannot outweigh the follies in its plot. To conceal his identity from his Thai employers, Joe hires Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a random guy hawking fake watches to tourists, as his messenger. We never really understand what Joe, a supposedly calculating and level-headed villain, sees in Kong. The guy comes off as a jackass: an unskilled and unreliable street punk. But Joe trusts him to carry money and information back and forth on his puny motorcycle nonetheless. And even after Kong screws up simple tasks, Joe sees something in him and becomes his martial arts instructor and, essentially, his BFF. Riiight.

Even more jarring is the movie’s romantic turn. When Joe stops by a drug store, he becomes infatuated with the adorable deaf-mute woman behind the counter. Pretty soon, the hitman who championed self-isolation finds himself going on dinner dates. Co-directors Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang definitely fell short of establishing a believable relationship between Joe and his beau.

One scene I will never forget, involving Joe running into some unexpected visitors during a seaside stroll, had everyone at the Beverly laughing their asses off at what was intended to be a serious, dramatic moment. Hopefully that clip will make its way to YouTube so you don’t have to pay money to catch this stinker.