Joe is a hired hit-man going to Bangkok for one last mission, kill four men and then get out. While the first three men are all scumbags, the fourth target is a political man that is good for the people. Joe has to decide if he will kill the politician and walk away rich or turn the last job down and just walk away. When he breaks two of his rules and befriends a deaf/mute pharmacist and a young street punk, it conflicts his decision.
I might be one of the few people left who still has a level of respect for Nicolas Cage. Say what you want about him selling out, but I still don’t see it.
Looking at his film production this decade I see the very fun National Treasure movies, a bunch of smaller projects with prestige directors such as Oliver Stone (World Trade Center), Gore Verbinski (The Weather Man), Ridley Scott (Matchstick Men), Spike Jonze (Adaptation), John Woo (Windtalkers), and John Madden (Captain Corelli’s Mandolin), as well as the big budget remake Gone in Sixty Seconds. Along the way there were a couple of movies that got people in an uproar. He made two adaptations in a row with The Wicker Man and Ghost Rider, neither worth a crap. However, Cage went into the films with the best intentions and a great deal of respect for both properties. I don’t blame Cage for these flops as much as I blame Neil LaBute and Mark Steven Johnson, and I say that as a fan of Daredevil.
Going into Bangkok Dangerous, I feel Cage still has good intentions. Brought aboard was Oxide and Danny Pang, who directed the original Thailand version. The Pang brothers have made a name for themselves in their native Thailand with both the Bangkok and The Eye franchises. Forget everything you know about the U.S. remake of The Eye because, as much as that film was a steaming pile of crap, the originals were solid horror films. The Pang brothers seem to owe a great deal of gratitude to the Quentin Tarantino school of filmmaking and are a duo I keep an eye with all their endeavors.
Bangkok Dangerous would be the brother’s second American film, following The Messengers in 2007 (co-written by CHUD.COM alum Mark Wheaton aka. Smilin’ Jack Ruby). The direction the brothers took with Bangkok Dangerous was to make a few changes in the original plot but still retain a foreign cast, outside of Cage, to help the film retain as much of the feel of the original movie as possible.
The film starts with Cage doing a voice over explaining his profession as a hired killer. Following a hit on a criminal who is about to turn over evidence, he kills his accomplice and then explains his rules, including leaving nothing behind, getting close to nobody and eliminating all traces of the crime, and finally knowing when to get out before you become the next hit. That pretty easily explains the plot of this movie. Cage’s hit-man is on his “one last hit” before finally getting out and anyone who has watched a crime movie knows that is the recipe for disaster.
The biggest alteration was changing the deaf and mute hit-man in the original film into Nic Cage and making the pharmacist he falls for into the deaf/mute. That hurts the plot because the hit-man in the original was very dangerous, his handicap making him even more eclectic. Making the pharmacist the one with the handicap makes her someone you feel needs to be protected. Another change is taking the hit-man and making him a killer straight out of the box. In the original, we see him as a boy who uses his handicap as an advantage as well as making him an angry young man looking for somewhere to fit in. The original Bangkok Dangerous was a film that showed that characters complete transformation throughout life. The remake starts too late for us to really care.
I have no problem with Cage’s acting in this film. I have read other reviews that criticize him for playing the character with no emotion through much of the film. I also read a review which claimed Cage did not seem to be playing the part with any real joy. That is called acting. Cage plays the character with no emotion because a hired killer should have no emotions and should be detached from humanity as a whole. Cage plays that part of his character to perfection.
What hurt the movie, and it hurt it early on, was when he did not kill his lackey despite stating he was a man who made no connections and kept everyone at a distance. The script tries to explain this through a voice over as Cage states he sees himself when he looks into the kid’s eyes. That is a copout and lazy writing and does nothing but undo the character they have built up to this point. The montage where he goes on a date with the pharmacist and trains his new protégé just fails on so many levels based on what we learned about him so far.
I think one of the problems with a movie as constrained as The Messengers is the Pang brothers need a wide palette to work with. Their directing style here is extraordinary, the camera angles, transitions and color palette remains superb, as good as anything from their Thai features. The style of these filmmakers is an amazing visual panache of cool iconic scenes and transitions. It looks great, despite the weaker points of the script. These guys have great talent and everything they do looks amazing.
The script was penned by Jason Richman whose other big screen work include Swing Vote and Bad Company. This film swings more toward Bad Company’s style but the Pang’s have more talent in their pinkie fingers than Joel Schumacher has in his entire body. Unfortunately, style only goes so far and a script with this many contradictions in tone cannot be helped no matter how pretty the picture looks. I will admit to the ending was perfect and refuses to cater to the happily ever after crowd.
The movie has some great moments for anyone looking for action, including a botched hit that turns into a boat chase with at least two explosions and a severed arm. The visual when he shoots the guy in the boat is great as well and moments like these are what make this movie worth recommending. Turn your brain off at the door and enjoy it for the thrill ride it is. I believed it when I reviewed The Eye 3, and I’ll say it here – The Pang brothers are two of the best young filmmakers working today and I will make an attempt to check out everything they do. I just hope the failure of this film at the box office won’t deter producers from working with them in the future.
Alternate Ending (08:39) – I don’t really care for this ending, as it is the “happy” ending I said I was glad the film chose not to use. The sacrifice is done away with and the entire alternate ending starts following the original end where he makes a different choice and gets away. It does explain why, in the original ending, the protégé is standing on a dock.
“From Hong Kong to Bangkok: A Look at Hong Kong Cinema” featurette (15:22) – This is a feature where film scholar David Chute looks at the history of Hong Kong cinema with a number of clips from the ‘20s through present day. It traces a number of significant filmmakers including the Shaw Brothers Studio, Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and John Woo. It’s short but very informative.
“Bangkok Dangerous: The Execution of the Film” featurette (13:31) – We start with the producers ideas behind the remake and then move into interviews with Nic Cage and the Pang brothers. Cage mentions his desire to make a foreign film, breaking out of the standard American action formula, and working completely with a foreign film crew. The brothers explain they chose to make the killer in the original a deaf/mute because they felt killers talked too much in other movies. They changed it because they felt American audiences needed their hero to talk.
Theatrical Trailer (02:13)