Sunday, September 7, 2008

Dangerous? Not in the least! Sad? Definitely.

Remorseless assassin Joe (Nicolas Cage) is in Thailand to complete a series of contract killings for a crime boss called Surat (Nirattisai Kaljaruek) in Bangkok Dangerous. He hires a street punk named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to run errands for him, all the while planning to kill the youth at the conclusion of his assignment. Instead, Joe becomes Kong's unlikely mentor,and begins a tentative romance with a local shop girl. But as Joe begins to let his guard down, Surat decides it is time to clean house.
The second film from Hong Kong-born twin directors Danny and Oxide Pang to earn a U.S. remake (after 2002's THE EYE), BANGKOK DANGEROUS differs in that, this time around, the brothers are doing the remaking themselves. Swapping Pawalit Mongkolpisit's mute Thai hitman from the original 1999 film for Nicolas Cage's brooding (but talking) American assassin, this version is less moody and stylized. Still, fans of Cage, and action aficionados who favor exotic locales, should find much to chew on in this unique thriller. Following an assignment in Prague, lonely hitman Joe (Cage) arrives in Bangkok under contract to a mobsters who have hired him to kill four people, including a trafficker of young girls and a politician. After seeing young street criminal Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) in action, Joe hires him to be his liaison to his employers. During a trip to a pharmacy to get disinfectant for a wound gotten during a motorcycle chase, Joe meets pretty mute pharmacist Fon (Charlie Young). The two begin to date, and though she is oblivious to his profession, she provides some sweetness in his dangerous, lonely life. Joe also becomes a mentor to young Kong, but these meaningful distractions in his life could prove dangerous to his job. BANGKOK DANGEROUS has an unglamorous slickness that makes it seem as if it could've been made in the late 1980s or early '90s. Cage is appropriately stoic as Joe, and sports a bizarre mane of jet-black hair. The Bangkok locations are effective and the crowded nighttime streets make for exciting chase sequences. The onscreen violence is not exceptionally graphic with the exception of a realistic arm severing, and one sequence of bullets puncturing a boat as seen from underwater is beautifully shot. The film moves to a fairly exiting climax with Joe going up against the thugs who hired him. Still by this time most members of the audience will have tuned out. Joe is not a character with whom you have any empathy. He is a killer pure and simple and he is never redeemed – at least not in any way that Cage plays him. This is one of Cage’s worst performances in years. Watching him bring this character to life is a study in how not to act a role. He gives this man no humor, no heart, no warmth and no depth. You can’t get much worse than that. The film itself is poorly conceived and muddled in the execution. Nothing about the man or the mission makes much sense. The audience is as unenlightened at the end of the story as it was at the beginning. Cage has been having a tough time choosing movies lately, maybe he needs to really sit down and think before he chooses because i'm tired of seeing this kinda crap. A horrified 1 on my "Go See" scale.

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