To this day I am still baffled by the concept that Nicolas Cage crossed over to become an action movie star. More often than not, he’s starred in some real clunkers and based off of the fact Bangkok Dangerous is a remake of a Thai film of the same name and not screened for critics prior to release was there any way to expect a different outcome this time around? Short answer: nope.
Aside from the obvious fact that Cage is miscast as the ruthless and precise assassin Joe (we’ll get to more on this later); the film is a rehash of every other lone-wolf contract killer flick. Let’s see if this looks familiar: Killer is given the rights to some hits based off of his professionalism. During the “job” he develops a conscious and begins to rethink his career. This catharsis causes him to abandon the job, which in turn leads to his employers hunting him down. Said assassin must now fight to stay alive and save his newfound friends.
Now I’ll plug in the roles for Bangkok Dangerous. Joe is a top-tier killer looking to do one more job. He is contracted to go to Thailand to off some targets as a last hurrah. Once in Bangkok, he hires Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a local, to aid him in his endeavors. All is going according to plan, until Joe runs into a cute deaf-mute working at a pharmacy named Fon (Charlie Young). His last target, his growing companionship with Kong and his feelings for Fon rustle up something inside of him that causes him to suddenly change course and stop his murderous ways. Of course his employers aren’t exactly happy with an unfinished job so they look to clean up the mess themselves.
Danny and Oxide Pang (who directed this and the original) further muddle the picture up by shooting it in such an incoherent manner. Indeed darkness offers a feeling of heightened tension and grittiness — undoubtedly the look they were trying to portray for the city’s underside — but just turning off the lights and arbitrarily playing with the camera effects isn’t a substitute for good setups and cinematography. Shooting much of the film dark and shadowy made it difficult to follow many of the action scenes, which is quite obviously a no-no for an action movie. As for said action sequences, there is plenty of it and violence to keep gore hounds satiated. Bullets rip into people, things explode and lots of people die. But I must say I was slightly underwhelmed with the grand scenes, especially the boat chase — even the one in Face/Off was better (another Cage overacted action flick).
Enough of all that though, lets get to the man of the hour, Nicolas Cage. As much as I want to like him, performances like this make it awfully difficult for me. He performed, well, like a lost puppy. Without the ability portray a character with some form of exceptionalistic behavior (which after 15 minutes aggravates the hell out of me too), he’s quite out of place. Here, he makes a lot of tough guy faces at all the wrong times and over emphasizes his lines for no apparent reason. There is no rhyme or reason to his portrayal, which in part is the fault of the Pang’s, because the role he’s been given is absolutely devoid of any “being”.
I have no way of judging whether this Bangkok Dangerous is better than the original, as I never saw it. I do however, suspect it is better than this shallow offering; after all it and Gin gwai (The Eye) were the vehicles that got Hollywood to notice the Pangs in the first place. So unless you want to see Nic Cage in varying degrees of acting distress (I can’t imagine why you would), check your local DVD retailer for the 1999 version and take your chances.