- Rated R
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All photos © Lionsgate
Reviewed by Jason Zingale
icolas Cage must really have a thing for remakes, but when the best one on your résumé is “Gone in 60 Seconds,” well, it might be time to rethink your choice in scripts. Based on the 1999 film of the same name, “Bangkok Dangerous” isn’t so much a remake as it is a loose adaptation, but with the original directors (Hong Kong duo The Pang Brothers) behind the camera for the second go-around, you’d think that it could only get better, not worse. Instead, the movie feels like a 1990s action film starring Steven Seagal, but with much less action and more of the same tiresome subplots that populate a majority of the films in Asian cinema.
Cage stars as Joe, a professional assassin who’s decided to get out of the game after years of killing strangers for money. His final job takes him to Bangkok, Thailand, where he must eliminate four men over the course of a month. Following his usual protocol, Joe enlists the help of a local street hustler named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to serve as his intermediary between the client and himself, but when he begins breaking his own rules by befriending Kong and falling for a deaf-mute pharmacy worker (Charlie Yeung), he’s forced to deal with the consequences. It’s his own conscience that ultimately proves to be his biggest enemy, however, as Joe must decide between finishing the job and getting away clean, or risk exposure by sparing the politician he’s been hired to kill.
Based on a script by Jason Richman, the American version of “Bangkok Dangerous” may feature the same characters as the original film, but their roles have been drastically changed. For instance, while the original still included the teacher-student relationship between Joe and Kong (who also happens to be the deaf-mute in the story), it’s the latter who serves as the main protagonist. This completely changes the film, not only because Cage’s character is completely unsympathetic (was it really necessary to shoot two muggers while out on a date?), but because it’s hard to imagine that a killer as seasoned as Joe would see any potential in a bottom feeder like Kong. Also, how does someone with such strict rules manage to break them twice in a matter of days; and on the eve of his retirement, no less? It was bad enough watching Frank Martin turn into a softy in “Transporter 3,” but does every antihero have to have a sudden change of heart?
Generic story aside, it would have been all too easy to forget about the film’s shortcomings had the Pang Brothers injected a little life into the proceedings. Instead, they take the time to develop a silly subplot between Joe and the deaf-mute girl (one that’s destined to fail from the start) in place of more action, which the movie is in desperate need of. As a result, the audience is stuck watching Cage try to remain as stone-faced as possible while he fires off a few rounds – a feat in itself when you consider the disastrous “Da Vinci Code” hairpiece hanging from the back of his head. “Bangkok Dangerous” is a movie that would have benefited from being worse than it is. Had the movie just gone completely off the reservation, like Neil LaBute's 2006 remake of “The Wicker Man" (also starring Cage), at least it would have been memorable. As it stands, though, it’s completely forgettable.
Two-Disc Special Edition DVD Review:
Lionsgate clearly doesn’t believe that everyone deserves special features with their DVD purchase, because unless you’re willing to pony up the extra cash for the two-disc special edition of “Bangkok Dangerous,” the only thing you’re going to find on the single-disc release besides the movie itself is the theatrical trailer. That would be a bummer if the bonus material on the special edition was actually good, but between a lousy making-of featurette and a brief historical look at Hong Kong cinema, you’d be better off going the cheaper route. Sure, the alternate ending is vastly different from the one that appears in the theatrical cut, and the addition of a digital copy is always nice, but it’s not really worth it unless you’re a diehard fan.