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Bangkok Dangerous


Movie review by Greg Carlson

An absolutely terrible assassin thriller remade from the 1999 original by brothers Danny and Oxide Pang, “Bangkok Dangerous” is dreadfully dull, poorly paced, and ridiculously acted by star Nicolas Cage, who may have been attracted to the movie’s brooding, neon-lit setting. Alas, even moviegoers who normally enjoy Cage’s oddball line delivery will find little of camp value in this lethargic mess. “Bangkok Dangerous” makes other action-oriented Americans-in-East Asia movies, like Ridley Scott’s “Black Rain” and Philip Kaufman’s “Rising Sun,” look brilliant by comparison. While the aforementioned movies were essentially police procedurals, “Bangkok Dangerous” attempts to sell its American audience on the promise of exotic Thailand.

Peppered with leaden voiceover narration in which killer-for-hire Cage stoically explains the four basic rules of contract murder (and then spends the rest of the movie violating all of them), “Bangkok Dangerous” cannot be bothered to build any kind of rapport with its audience. Instead of character development, the Pangs substitute a wholly unnecessary prologue in which Cage’s sniper drops a baddie with a perfect shot from a high-powered rifle during a police interrogation in Prague. The action then moves to the city of the title, and the Pangs do little to inspire an uptick in tourism, choosing instead to emphasize Bangkok’s poverty, crowdedness, and crime rate.

Wearing a comical mop of inky, unkempt hair that does his face no favors, Cage drones on about his career choice, lamenting the assassin’s difficulty in finding a dinner companion after work. The dialogue is preposterous, and when Cage falls for a deaf pharmacist you can feel the audience rolling their eyes in unison. Apparently breaking one of the cardinal hitman rules works like gateway drugs: Cage also decides he wants to teach, and passes along his martial arts wisdom to a gutsy young courier who runs the man’s dangerous errands. Normally, a superfluous training montage would at least inspire a good chuckle or two, but “Bangkok Dangerous” poses no threat to “The Karate Kid,” or “Hot Rod” for that matter.

“Bangkok Dangerous” jumbles together a grab bag of unconnected scenes, and even though we are told that Cage has been hired to carry out four killings, not a single set-piece delivers the goods. Instead, the Pangs resort to some run-of-the-mill gunplay and one weird murder in which Cage drowns a corpulent gangster, alligator-style, in a swimming pool. “Bangkok Dangerous” throws in a combination boat/motorcycle chase and a disorienting climax in which Cage descends on the main bad guy’s compound, dispatching scores of toughs in video game-like fashion.

“Bangkok Dangerous” is a hyper-masculine ode to violence with no use at all for women. Of the two females who appear onscreen in any substantive way, one is a nightclub dancer used at will by powerful thugs and the other is a deaf-mute. Both are in need of rescue at some point or other and neither one exists as a fully formed character. Several critics have complained that these women fulfill the stereotype of the passive Asian. Imagine how much more interesting the movie would have been had the Pangs considered the points of view and perspectives of the movie’s non-male characters.

This review was also published in the High Plains Reader the week of 9/8/08.

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