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BANGKOK DANGEROUS (2008) ** movie review by COOP

Posted on September 9th, 2008
Posted on September 9th, 2008


I often imagine how big, Hollywood stars choose their roles. Is it the largest paycheck or the potential for prestige? Is it a passion for a genre or the strength of a script? Is it all those things or do they simply close their eyes and throw darts at a board? I’m sure the answer is complex for most stars but in the case of Nicholas Cage, starring in “Bangkok Dangerous,” I’m leaning towards the dart board theory.

Nicholas Cage stars as Joe, a globetrotting hitman who ends up in Bangkok to commit four last assassinations before he hangs up his holsters and retires. He recruits charismatic street hustler, Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) as a personal courier to exchange money and info with local gangster clients. Joe begins breaking his strict “no personal involvement” principle, first by mentoring Kong in assassination techniques, then by sparking an awkward romance with a local hearing-impaired pharmacist. These decisions endanger Joe’s mission, forcing him to question his morals and break his strict rules that ensure his self-preservation.

This film came about eight years too late. Adapted from a 1999 Hong Kong action film of the same name, “Bangkok Dangerous” relied on a passé genre style in an attempt to translate a modest overseas success into a Hollywood blockbuster. Producers used the same directors and inserted Nic Cage in the title role, resulting in a clichéd misfire that wouldn’t have been interesting even when this type of remake was in style nearly a decade ago. “Bangkok’s” directors, The Pang Brothers (Oxide and Danny), have yet to make a smooth transition over into Hollywood cinema. Their stateside horror effort “The Messengers” bombed. Remaking/Americanizing their old version of “Bangkok” further insinuates a lack of creativity. My advice to the Pang Brothers: Stay in Hong Kong. Enjoy your celebrity status and success there. No need to for you to get dragged through the Hollywood mud a third time.

Shahkrit Yamnarm delivers the best performance and best character in the film as Kong. He oozes a youthful charm and confidence that easily trump’s Cage’s dour and reserved Joe. He makes some foolish, yet believable decisions over the course of the story which gives him depth and a humanizing quality not found in the other characters. I was not surprised to discover later that in the original “Bangkok Dangerous,” Kong was the main character. Hollywood changed the only aspect of the original film that could have made the remake work. Talk about throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Charlie Young as Cage’s attractive, deaf love interest displays some commendable acting talent, but ultimately the chemistry between the two characters comes across as creepy and unbelievable. It’s like Joe suddenly decides out of the blue that he needs a girlfriend to complete his retirement, so he picks up the first pretty face he sees. Due to the language barrier and her handicap, they can barely communicate. This makes the scenes between them excruciating to watch.

Nicholas Cage wears yet another bizarre hairpiece in this boring role and baffles again with his random choice of films. One could argue that he’s selecting vanity roles to add to his resume (I can’t recall him playing a pro hitman before). I can understand the desire of an actor to play versatile parts, but Cage has a reputation for leaping onto fad-genre films without checking the project for evidence of quality. He’s not as bad as Travolta in this transgression, but his judgment seems to get worse with age, especially considering “Ghost Rider” was arguably the worst comic book adaptation of all time. Cage continues to make poor choices by expressing a desire to do “Ghost Rider 2” set in Europe, apparently so he can get paid to fulfill a fantasy of riding a motorcycle across the continent… Please spare us, Nic. I’m not counting you out because I hear you’ve signed on to the transcendent comic book project, titled “Kick-Ass,” in a supporting role. I have high hopes for that one. Don’t disappoint me.

Hong Kong action films of the 90’s don’t translate well to this era. The violent genre arose in the late 80’s over fears of China’s impending take over of the capitalist city from Britain in 1999. Once that transition passed peacefully, fears subsided and the genre faded away. As is the custom, Hollywood often jumps on these overseas sensations a bit too late, as was the case in “Bangkok Dangerous.” If you want a fantastic and thrilling example of the genre, skip “Bangkok” and rent John Woo’s explosive 1992 hit “Hard Boiled” starring Chow Yun Fat. It’s arguably the best action film ever made and makes “Die Hard” look like “Love Story”… If that’s you’re kind of thing.

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Check out the trailer for the far superior “Hard Boiled” below…

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