Dir: Danny Pang and Oxide Pang. US-Thailand. 2008. 100mins.
The remake by Danny and Oxide Pang of their own imaginative 1999 directorial debut sacrifices the grit and inventiveness of the original in favour of a Hollywood-style loner-assassin drama with a Hollywood star in an exotic location. This version of Bangkok Dangerous is a respectable genre movie, but not much more. Still, filmgoers could pile in to Bangkok Dangerous as fast as the bodies pile up on screen. Mostly in English, this studio version should draw the substantial Asian audience that went to the Pangs' debut. Nicolas Cage in the lead as the stoic hit-man Joe should boost the picture's public with the multiplex crowd. Home-video could be weak, given the movie's inferiority to the film that inspired it but the film's release will surely help the dvd market for the original.
The new Bangkok Dangerous opens as Joe, experienced yet slowing down, is sent to the Thai capital to kill four persons designated by a brutal crime boss, Surat (Kaljaruek). As if even screenwriter Jason Richman saw the preposterousness of having a tall American killer blending discreetly into Bangkok, Joe hires the petty thief Kong (Yamnarm) as a courier to bring each execution order in a briefcase. Bar dancer Aom (Hemmanee) hands off the briefcases with a pouting sexuality. Surat wants them all dead once the job is done.
The Pang brothers' direction gives Joe's killing process and Surat's treachery a stolid step-by-step rhythm, quoting the grand sequences of John Woo rather than any of their own work. The earlier version's entropic violence drew on the element of surprise in the volatile anarchy of epidemic corruption in a city where anyone could be the victim of gunfire.
Departing from its 1999 model, the script makes Cage's Joe a speaking character, unlike the deaf mute killer who gave the original its unique oddity. Cage, whose company co-produced the film, narrates the opening as if Bangkok were the Saigon of Apocalypse Now or the Los Angeles of Chinatown, yet he manages a reasonable Hong Kong deadpan when killing on orders. Mercifully, his lines are few; the Cage nasality doesn't befit a killer.
As Kong, Thai actor Shahkrit Yamnarm grows from pickpocket to servant/pupil ready to please the mysterious aphoristic Cage whose fighting lessons resemble scenes from the 1970s Kung Fu movie days. Non-European audiences may find an uneasy colonialism in a Westerner instructing the dutiful Thai pupil.
DP Decha Srimantra and production designer James Newport modulate the film's palette, which paints overtures to action in lurid sex-club neon, coarsens into blue-black as violence approaches, and turns harmonious when Cage softens in the presence of the serene Fon (Young), a deaf mute pharmacist. Deft lighting for elaborate night shooting keeps the script's predictability from looking too generic.
IEG Virtual Studios
Blue Star Entertainment
Initial Entertainment Group
(1) 310 315 1722
based on the film Bangkok Dangerous by the Pang Brothers