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Bangkok Ludicrous: Meandering Dark Remake Swallows Itself Whole 

I left Bangkok Dangerous with several questions. First, why are remakes of Asian films in such high demand? It seems like an exercise in intentionally

click to enlarge Good to see you again, Dr. Jones
  • Good to see you again, Dr. Jones
I left Bangkok Dangerous with several questions. First, why are remakes of Asian films in such high demand? It seems like an exercise in intentionally wasting time and money. Beyond that, why do Asian filmmakers like Takashi Shimizu (The Grudge) and now The Pang Brothers remake their own movies? Americanization saps the mystique and charisma out of the originals. We didn't see John Woo come over here and start re-making all of his flicks. (No, he had the good foresight to make new, crappy American movies.) And what's the deal with Nicholas Cage? I remember a time when he was good. The problem is that he has made so many bad movies that it's getting hard to tell if he can even make a good movie. If he can, Bangkok Dangerous isn't it.

Bangkok is the moody and dark story of a lonely hit-man, Joe (Cage), who decides to befriend his chosen courier (Shahkrit Yamnarm) because he "sees himself in him." Yeah, right. The sidekick-mentor-teacher-pupil strains believability. Everyone knows a hit-man cannot trust anyone, yet right away he befriends some kid. Here we have yet another in a string of hit-man movies wherein the dude doing the killing gains a conscience somehow along the line of work, breaks all his own rules and then gets into trouble with the bad guys. The only sensible way is to shoot it out. No plot twists, no tricks, just straight forward storytelling no matter how farfetched and ridiculous it gets.

The best thing about this movie is the scenery: you're thrown smack dab into Thailand's street world culture. The only innovative scenes are the hits. There's an unbelievably bad motorcycle/boat chase scene in which Cage's body double is visible in several shots. Another unbearably stupid section is the martial arts training ritual which consists of pushups, stretches and hand-touching. There are some hideously uncomfortable and unnecessary slow scenes that might've worked with all Asian actors, but with Cage's sappy facial expressions they fall to pieces. Cage is a movie star who insists on being in action movies but can't act "actiony." He's way too stiff. And that brings up another disastrous choice-voice over narration-especially when it's Nic Cage's monotone-slur.

In the first BD the assassin's name was Kong; this time that's the sidekick's name. In the 1999 original the assassin was a deaf mute; this time he dates a deaf mute. Are you following me here? The deaf hit-man premise allowed for a cool touch: he cannot hear the sound of the gun hence he has no feelings. Cage's character looking all hangdog/ lackadaisical can hear everything and still has no feeling or any motivation, sucking the life out of a movie that already feels likes it's moving in slow motion. Kong and Joe build love interests outside of their blossoming feelings for each other. Kong courts a stripper at a club who never seems to strip and Joe is smitten in a drugstore by the deaf mute counter girl (Charlie Yeung). Since when are we supposed to believe that a hit-man is naive enough to be nervous on dates and act like a teenager?

There are a few decent gore scenes and nice use of elephants. The Pang Brothers make movies look cool (The Eye, The Messengers) and are big on style. But stylization cannot mask stupidity which this movie has in spades. The result is a film resembling those shot-in-the-Philippines action flicks churned out by the hundreds in the '80s. BD is a re-hashing of roughly a gazillion different movies about redemption and triumph over evil done in a bad way, ending in typical good guys over bad guys: case closed.

The original illustrated the influence American movies had on Asian films. This remake transposes it to being an American film, defeating the purpose.


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