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dir The Pang Brothers
scr Jason Richman
with Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Young, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Dom Hetrakul, Namngen Jaruvijit, Tuck Napaskorn, Allwarin Apirakyothin, Peter Shadrin, Arthajid Puengvicha, Veerasak Boonchard
release US/UK 5.Sep.08
Action man/romantic lead: Cage with Yamnarm (above) and with Young and friend (below)
BANGKOK: DANGEROUS (2000)
|R E V I E W B Y R I C H C L I N E
Danny and Oxide Pang bring their silky style to Hollywood, reworking the plot of their 2000 thriller to make way for Nicolas Cage and his Big Star persona. The result is a strange blend of violence, romance and emotion that never quite gels.
Joe (Cage) is a jaded hitman on one last job: a series of four hits in Bangkok. According to his own rules, he won't allow himself to believe in right or wrong, to trust anyone, to leave any evidence or to forget when to get out. He hires a local guy, Kong (Yamnarm), as a disposable go-between with the client (Kaljaruek). But Joe befriends and begins to mentor Kong, and they both fall for women (Young and Hemmanee). By abandoning his rules, Joe's in trouble.
The Pang twins fill the screen with dense colour and rich imagery, with a mainly dark blue palette that brightens up in the romantic interludes, which were apparently sponsored by the Thai Tourism Bureau, and the red-hued conclusion. Every frame looks terrific, and the fluid editing and pulsating tone keep us watching, even though there's not much happening of interest.
Cage's fingerprints are all over this film, making it look increasingly like a vanity project as the story progresses. Not only does he approach the character in that over-serious way of his, but he's strains to be both growling action man and puppy-eyed romantic lead. Frankly, neither of these are his strong suits.
The badly needed lightness is added by Yamnarm's Kong, a bristling freewheeler who begins turn serious and romantic even as Joe teaches him the assassination trade. Without even trying, he's far cooler than Cage, and his journey has a much more interesting arc, undercutting the pretentiousness that surges all around him. Not a single other character registers at all.
As with most bad action movies, the script is the real problem. It feels overly rewritten as well as badly bloated with contrived action sequences. And the fact that Joe's girlfriend is deaf feels both misogynistic and xenophobic--to keep the girl quiet and avoid more subtitles (in the original, the hitman was deaf). Even the Pangs can't overcome this with their blood- and sweat-filled atmospherics.
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© 2008 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall
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