September 11, 2008

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Bangkok Dangerous (R)
Nicholas Cage grimaces his way through Bangkok Dangerous, a gunplay-filled empty suit of an action movie that is more fascinating for Cage’s strange early Cheech Marin hair (but, you know, limper) than the story itself.

Joe (Cage) is a hit man, one who is cool and calculated and precise and has a lot of rules about not getting entangled by things like human relationships. (For shorthand, just think of the majority of Cage’s other non-National Treasure roles for the last few years; this character is unshockingly similar to all those.) Joe’s latest jobs are in Bangkok. He has three jobs, so he picks a spunky pickpocket named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to help him, but, after Kong shows some dedication, Joe decides to take the unusual step of making Kong not just an errand boy but a student in Joe’s martial-arts-based, detail-noticing, zen-of-violence shtick.

I suppose since Joe has already learned someone’s name and started having more than five-word conversations, he decides to go whole-hog into the human experience by wooing Fon (Charlie Yeung), a deaf pharmacy worker. With her, he glimpses the peaceful life that is impossible for someone who spends his days planning hits, chasing (or being chased by) hoods while they are shooting at him and occasionally blowing stuff up.

Chase, shoot, fight, explosion, chase, shoot, fight explozzzzzz… oh, sorry, nodded off there. Yes, I like a good fight and cheer for a good explosion but the violence in Bangkok Dangerous is exhaustingly familiar. Nothing feels new here, not the plot (laid out in its entirety in the trailers, by the way), not the way the fight scenes are shot, not the characters. I would say that Bangkok Dangerous is a bad movie, except that it’s not even interesting in the way that bad movies can be.

I read a brief synopsis of Oxide and Danny Pang’s 1999 Hong Kong movie by the same name. Though it shares some characteristics, there seem to be just enough twist to the details reconstructed for this movie to make me interested in seeing it — and I say that even after having sat through this version, checking my cell phone every few minutes to discover that time was passing even more slowly than I feared.

The 1999 movie shows some promise in its premise, something this movie never — from the moment I heard of it to the retort of the last gun show — never offered. Everything in this Bangkok Dangerous feels like what the movie probably is — a dumbed down remake of better action movies. D+

Rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Directed by Oxide and Danny Pang and written by Jason Richman (from a 1999 film of the same name by the Pang brothers), Bangkok Dangerous is an hour and 40 minutes long and is distributed in wide release by Lionsgate.