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  Publicity Stills of "Bangkok Dangerous"
(Courtesy of Shaw)

Director: Oxide Pang and Danny Pang
Cast: Nicholas Cage, Steve Baldocchi, Chris Heebink, James Wearing Smith, Charlie Young, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul
RunTime: 1 hr 40 mins
Released By: Shaw
NC-16 (Violence & Some Nudity)
Official Website: http://www.bangkokdangerousmovie.net/

Opening Day: 11 September 2008


The life of an anonymous assassin takes an unexpected turn when he travels to Thailand to complete a series of contract killings. Joe (Nicolas Cage), a remorseless hitman, is in Bangkok to execute four enemies of a ruthless crime boss named Surat. He hires Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a street punk and pickpocket, to run errands for him with the intention of covering his tracks by killing him at the end of the assignment. Strangely, Joe, the ultimate lone wolf, instead finds himself mentoring the young man while simultaneously being drawn into a tentative romance with a local shop girl. As he falls further under the sway of Bangkok's intoxicating beauty, Joe begins to question his isolated existence and let down his guard... just as Surat decides it's time to clean house.

Movie Review:

An assassin with a conscience. The concept is synonymous with Chow Yuen Fatt and John Woo, whose actor-director collaboration brought us the evergreen Hong Kong cinematic classics “A Better Tomorrow” and “The Killer”. It seems like the concept has reached its demise in the late 90’s with Chow’s last outing as an assassin in “The Replacement Killers” until the Pang Brothers, Oxide and Danny came up with their own take with “Bangkok Dangerous” in 1999, yielding encouraging response from moviegoers. Now, the Pang Brothers have re-imagined “Bangkok Dangerous” by giving it a Hollywood treatment with Nicolas Cage in the lead role.

The film opens by introducing us to Joe (Nicolas Cage), a seasoned American assassin who sees killing as nothing more than a profession while strictly adhering to his four self-imposed occupational rules, until he is hired by Surat (Nirattisai Kaljaruek), a Thai mob boss to take out a few of Surat’s enemies in Bangkok. As he proceeds with his assignments in the capital city of Thailand, he gradually develops feelings for a local deaf-mute girl named Fon (Charlie Yeung) while becoming a mentor to his errand boy, Kong (Shahkritt Yamnarm). Both attachments lead to Joe’s pondering over his job, eventually putting his own life on the line when Surat realizes his hired hitman has a change of heart.

The first thing that strikes me upon seeing this remake of “Bangkok Dangerous” is the cinematography. The colour saturation for the entire film is significantly enhanced – imagine the ‘colour’ setting of a television tuned to the maximum - giving it a dark tone that suits the film’s theme. Being shot on location in Thailand, the film can easily pass as a tourism advertisement for the Land of a Thousand Smiles if it weren’t for the violence and occasional raunchy scenes. Action fans will be satisfied with the heart-pounding gunfights and stunt work, with a bit of digital effects to tom-yum-spice things up as shown in a bullet point-of-view scene à la James McAvoy & Angelina Jolie’s “Wanted”. There is also a brief homage to the aforementioned John Woo when Joe goes on the offensive by wielding two handguns at once. All these combine to result in a visually pleasing film.

Underneath all the razzle-dazzle though, the film leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to its plot and character development. The sudden transformation of Joe from a cold-blooded assassin to a conscience-filled one is hardly convincing, especially his reason, in his own words for mentoring Kong in the ways of assassination: “seeing myself in him”. How this reason can change a heartless killer’s opinion towards a mere dispensable errand boy in a matter of seconds is beyond my understanding, except for the fact that it is there solely for the sake of moving the story forward. Hong Kong actress Charlie Yeung (credited here as Charlie Young for some reason) is severely underused, which is really disappointing considering her impressive performance in 2006’s “After This Our Exile” as Aaron Kwok’s estranged wife. She does a remarkable job of lighting up the screen with her sweet and demure manner despite losing the ability to speak and hear, but that’s all she has to offer within the scope of her underdeveloped character.

Then, there is Nicolas Cage. Sporting the similar mullet hairdo as seen in “Con Air”, Cage plays it cool as the hitman in the limelight. He is effective in depicting Joe as an all-round tough guy as well as portraying his softer side during the emotionally charged scenes. The only problem with his character is that he appears to be too invincible for his own good. Nothing seems to be able to stop him, to the extent that there is no sense of impending danger whenever he is threatened. As exhilarating as he is during the action sequences, it is within the tender moments with Charlie Yeung that he gets humanized. The film could have used more of such scenes to elevate it further.

While this new rendition of “Bangkok Dangerous” is not entirely flawless, I have to commend the Pang Brothers for their effort. There is a touch of innovation over the 1999 original film in which the hitman is the one with disabilities, although Oxide Pang was quoted as saying that the change was made for marketing reasons so that Nicolas Cage can have some lines to say. Nevertheless, it is encouraging to see a remake that does not resort to the ‘copy-and-paste’ method. The road is still long for the Pang Brothers to match John Woo’s brilliance in action movies. With some improvements in story-writing and establishing their own trademark, they can get there.

Movie Rating:

(Stylish, flashy but not compelling enough in the story department – that’s “Bangkok Dangerous” in a bullet shell)

Review by Tan Heng Hau


. Wanted (2008)

. Next (2007)

. National Treasure: Book of Secrets (2007)

. Ghost Rider (2007)

. Hitman (2007)

. Shooter (2007)

. The Detective (2007)

. Hardboiled DVD (1992)

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