A film review by Craig J. Koban
BANGKOK DANGEROUS ½
2008, R, 99 mins.
Nicolas Cage: Joe / Shahkrit Yamnarm: Kong / Charlie Yeung: Fon
Written and directed by The Pang Brothers, based on their 1999 film.
new hitman-thriller BANGKOK DANGEROUS is unquestionably very fittingly
titled: The film is most certainly lethal to audiences, in the respect
that horrible and banal writing, excruciatingly stale performances,
lackluster shoot-'em up action sequences, and remorsefully murky and
dreary cinematography can certainly overpower even the most open minded of
like this make me not want to see more movies.
There are films that are bad, and then there are ones that are so
wrongheaded in some many categorically terrible ways that you almost have
to admire the sheer scope of their deficiencies.
BANGKOK DANGEROUS more than fits this bill: this movie is
stunningly mediocre, but not in those sort of unintentionally hilarious
ways that make it a cheaply entertaining awful movie.
Entertainment value is all but subverted here.
I'm depressed. No...seriously. This movie made me sad. I left the theatre wanting to take a shower because it bathed me in an endless rain of gloominess. I have seen countless repetitive, disposable, and rudimentary action thrillers that proceeded from one methodically predictable beat to the next; those movies – and there are many – at least provided some outlandish giggles based solely on their preposterousness and shameful disregard to logic. BANGKOK DANGEROUS is so mercilessly drab and dingy from beginning to end that you kind of want to cleanse the screen with an exfolliant followed by a splash of water.
the film’s drab and depressing plot.
First of all, it’s a beyond needless remake from a passably well
regarded 1999 film of the same name by the Pang Brothers.
This new version is actually filmed by the same duol, which
begs the question as to why any filmmaker would want to attempt to remake
their own material, but I digress. The
’99 film at least had an interesting angle in its dime-a-dozen
storyline: It was about a
deaf hitman dealing with his immoral profession.
At least the film’s premise had intrigue (what if you could not
hear the gunshots you fired, nor the pleas from the victims you were
new version stars Nicolas Cage in the hitman role, which - if his outward
appearance means anything - reveals that he has what must to be the single worst
toupee since William Shatner’s shamefully noticeable rug in later STAR TREK
films. Okay, so
Cage’s India Ink black mullet is depressing to look at (his stylist
should be shaken up), but what’s even more depressing is the fact that
the Pangs have decided to not make Cage’s hitman hearing impaired.
Now, would there not have been a more interesting and compelling film to be made here if Cage – a more than proven actor – could have really sunk his teeth into a very atypical anti-hero? I grew dizzy just thinking about all of the dramatic and thematic possibilities of allowing for Cage to do something really different with this type of familiar material. Alas, the Pang’s opted to make Cage a man with all of his senses in check, which they recently rationalized in an article as being done for the sake of making the film more "commercial." I guess that marketing concerns – not artistic ones – drove this film. What’s really odd is that allowing Cage to fully emote was the wrong choice, because the actor here gives a textbook exercise in sleepwalking through an emotionless and monosyllabic performance. This is probably the closest I’ve seen an Oscar winner and multiple Oscar nominee be utterly comatose throughout a film. His performance is regrettably dead on arrival from scene to scene.
basic plot is the stuff of regurgitated lonely, introverted, and
trust-no-one hitman movies 101: Cage plays Joe, one of those contract killers that's tough, ill
tempered, cold, calculating, and unflinching.
Via a tired and tedious voice over narration, he tells us that he
lives by an obligatory self-prescribed code of conduct of being a killer:
don’t develop attachments to anyone, don’t leave any traces,
and don’t get caught. Gee,
I wonder if he will break not one, not two, but all of those tenants?
decides that it's time for “one last mission” before he says “audieu” to his
tortuous and lonely profession. His
mission takes him to Bangkok to carry out a series of four hits for a Thai
routine…right? Well, for
some inexplicable reason Joe decides to hire a street smart pickpocket
named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to serve as his messenger and translator.
As to why he trusts this completely untrustworthy street fiend is
beyond all common sense, but he does and astonishingly decides that he will
train him in the way of killing people.
And…dammit…he begins to bond with him, breaking one of his
get even more complicated for Joe. About
halfway through completing his mission he decides for even more
inexplicable reasons to get close to a cute deaf/mute pharmacist (Charlie
he takes a liking too. She
serves as an innocent foil to the dark, desolate, and thoroughly tragic
lifestyle that Joe lives everyday. Of
course, with startling unavoidability, she discovers that this would-be
love of her life is actually a ruthless and cold-blooded assassin, which
turns her off big time and makes Joe even more grumpy and untrusting of
the world. The final straw
that breaks his back occurs when his Thai employer wants him to take out a
prominent and highly popular local politician.
He develops a crisis of conscience for reasons never thoroughly
explained beyond that of plot convenience, and his unwillingness to
fulfill his end of the bargain infuriates his gangster bosses.
This leads to the crime family threatening Joe’s new friends,
which inevitably means that Joe must now make a stand and do “the right
thing” to secure his friends’ freedom and rid the world of the threat
of these criminals. All of
this culminates in a kidnapping, a lot of threats on both sides, a series
of gun battles, and…blah, blah, blah, blah.
DANGEROUS suffers from such an elephantine pacing and a monotonously tired
script that you kind of have to prop you head up with you hand just to
stay awake and alert throughout its running time, and at 99 minutes it’s
a Herculean endurance test. The film,
at times, is unbearably slow moving: it seemingly takes forever to get the
mechanisms of the plot to get going.
The script’s attempts at humanizing this vindictive killer are
asinine at best, not to mention that the love affair he has with the
deaf-mute pharmacist is lacking in any sort of passion, heat, or palatable
chemistry between the two stars. BANGKOK
DANGEROUS is the epitome of cookie-cutter screenwriting, as it adds
nothing of weight and substance to an ever-growing stale genre.
Again, the wiser choice would have been to make Cage’s killer
deaf, but the safer route taken here just falls flat at every turn: it’s
just depressingly formulaic.
the film’s aesthetic appearance is depressing.
I have never seen an action film shot with such maddeningly
murky, dark, and washed out cinematography.
BANGKOK DANGEROUS is dirty to look at: There are times where the
Pangs shoot things with such an impossibly black, muddy and perpetually
dark scheme that it often makes scenes nearly impossible to watch.
Usually the technical merits of a soulless action vehicle makes the
film tolerable on a level of its consummate and professional sheen, but
BANGKOK DANGEROUS is disturbingly listless and grimy as a visual
experience. It’s the kind
of the film that should be required viewing in film classes as to how one
should not shoot a film. Since
the artistic polish of the film is bankrupt, many of its action set pieces
are difficult to follow. Then
there are other stylistic choices, like the film’s very last shot, which
adds absolutely nothing to the scene that preceded it.
Did someone highjack the editing bay from the Pangs and threaten
them to produce the single most unsatisfying and uninspiring final shot in
recent film history? Sure
looks like it.
used the term “depressing” a lot in my review thus far, which is
precisely the best descriptor of my experience of watching BANGKOK
DANGEROUS. How could a film
that is so abysmal is so many uncalculated ways see the light of day?
Perhaps the largest onus of blame should befall the film’s star.
Nicolas Cage bizarrely served as both the film’s lead actor and
producer. On a performance
level, his bizarrely stiff and ineffectual work here is a festering
display of phoning in emotions for a fat paycheck, and after a series of questionable films like NEXT, THE
WICKER MAN, NATIONAL TREASURE PART ONE and
TWO and GHOST
RIDER, I am
starting to wonder where his gifts and range as an actor have gone.
Where is the greatness of Cage from movies like LEAVING LAS VEGAS,
BRINGING OUT THE DEAD, ADAPTATION, MATCHSTICK MEN, THE WEATHER MAN, and LORD
OF WAR? Beats me. What’s key here is that his clout as an bankable talent has given him some
free reign to produce as well, but no man of sound artistic vision could
see BANGKOK DANGEROUS as being even passably watchable.
Maybe that’s why the studio gave it no critic screening (the
ultimate kiss of death) and dumped it to unassuming filmgoers during the
least respected cinematic month of the year (September), where most films are all
but abandoned to die a quick death.
very depressing, indeed.