Joe is a professional hit man who picks someone off the street to do his errands, and after he is finished kills that person. His next assignment takes him to Bangkok, and as usual, he finds a street-wise guy named Kong to help him. After Kong has a close call and learns who Joe is, Kong asks him to train him and he does. Joe also meets a local girl who is deaf and spends time with her. However, Joe has a hard time keeping his other life from her. It also appears that the person who hired Joe, breaks his rule of complete anonymity and tries to find him. Written by
definitely not as bad as its reputation... and yet still not very good
Bangkok Dangerous comes to viewers who approach it on DVD with a stigma. Matter of fact, it just kind of came and went when it played in theaters for a few weeks in September of 2008, around that time (i.e. Labor Day weekend) when few movies really do well with audiences or critics. It looks like it will be garbage just from the video cover: a half interested Nicolas Cage in damn-ridiculous hair (basically a Muppet called and wants its body back), and with a premise that sounds just like it is, a remake of an action movie from years back. But going into the movie my expectations were altered within some minutes. The initial thought was 'well, this will just be another hackneyed, predictable action movie in the Asian setting of Bangkok and stuck with what I call 'genericitis, which means a movie suffers from its perpetual sense of the usual... and in ways the movie is that.
It also surprised me with a few things, and it actually made me take the movie seriously as an actual piece of work as opposed to something to deride with teeth gnashed like Ghost Rider. Nicolas Cage is trying for something a little different here. At first, yes, it may look like he's bored, or wooden, or both in the character of "Joe" the hit-man who has his four rules and, naturally, breaks at least a few of them during the run time of the movie in Bangkok (i.e. be anonymous, don't make connections with people you don't know, and know when to quit), but this gives way to something else. He's trying for nuance and observation, of being subtle in a role that should call for it (albeit Joe isn't a terribly interesting person save for his detachment). While he's definitely no Alain Delon when it comes to playing cold killer who may have a couple of portions of humanity in him, I actually did find myself being drawn into the character just based on Cage's projection of this detachment as a means to hide himself away from people. And for good reason, since he's not a "people person" really.
That is until Joe meets 'Kong', who is a guy he hires for work but then takes on as his pupil (as the narration dutifully and unnecessarily tells us, because he sees something in Kong), and then also a romantic interest in a deaf-mute girl who works at a pharmacy. The latter scenes especially were touching because of it becoming a kind of silent movie, perhaps by default, when the two of them were together, and there's a rather sad, painful scene later on in the film between the two that is shockingly good and believable. I even liked the actors who played Kong and the girl, and how their characters unfolded in the story, limited as they might be... and yet, that old bastard cliché and convention kept coming back, more-so into the action scenes and set-pieces; whenever a chase happens in the film (save for one moment involving an arm dismemberment) you can zone out and not miss much. The editing is that kind of fast- kinetic style where you can barely take in a shot before it goes whizzing by. There's also some scenes that are ludicrous that are taken dead-serious, such as when Cage's Joe practically has gills and drowns a man underwater without any trouble.
It's really a matter of the plot just not giving anything much for the characters or actors to do. And yet there is a misconception that becomes apparent; this is much more about the characters than the plot, at least for a while, and when it sticks to that the Pang brothers sense of cinematic style, of the love of dirty Bangkok and elephants, works and is enjoyable. When the story comes back though, particularly in the last twenty minutes when Joe makes a fatal choice, it turns into something else - something frustratingly forgettable. For a short while there is hope, which is nice, until it reverts to what the expectation foretold. It's truly a mixed-bag, but far from the failure that was projected by the reviews and audience reaction... Oh, and of course, try not to look at Cage's hair. The bad jokes would never end. 5.5/10
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