Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Rating: **
Review Date: 9/14/08
Director: Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang
Music: Brian Tyler
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Young, Panward Hemmanee

I'll be honest. The only reason I bothered to see this film was for the beautiful Charlie Young. The last film I saw her in before she disappeared into obscurity was the lackluster "What Price Survival" (1994), and when I saw her briefly show up in the trailer for "Bangkok Dangerous" I nearly fell out of my seat. While she has certainly aged, she is still radiantly pretty, and her wonderfully nuanced performance is both breathtaking and heartbreaking.

Then there's the rest of the film.

For whatever reasons, the Pang Brothers decided to remake their own 1999 film, perhaps to take advantage of a larger budget, an international cast, and their own experience. Unfortunately, it pretty much falls completely flat. Having not seen the original, I can't make comparisons, and I have no motivation to seek it out. Joe (Nicolas Cage) is a highly skilled and highly regarded hitman who realizes it's time to get out of the business and takes that fateful "one last job" before retiring. His job is to take out four marks in Bangkok, and he makes the mistake of breaking his own rules by falling in love with a local girl (Charlie Young) and taking on an apprentice named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm). Adding to his trouble, the client decides it's too risky to let Joe live which results in the inevitable double-cross.

Unfortunately, we've seen this all before in much better films, and apart from the delightfully downbeat ending, the Pang Brothers don't bring anything new or refreshing to the table. I'm not a big fan of Nicolas Cage to begin with, and I just don't see him as action star material. He seems kind of pathetic and broken down, but then again, so is the character he's playing. He stumbles through most of the film in a catatonic state, with occasional bursts of painfully egregious overacting. He does, however, manage to pull off some convincing hand-to-hand combat, which I found impressive. His sidekick Kong is annoying, but becomes more likable as the film progresses and his character matures. Just as Joe has fallen for Fon, Kong has fallen for a dancer named Aom (Panward Hemmanee, doing her best Ayumi Hamasaki impersonation). They actually make a pretty cute couple.

The film betrays its low budget by being filmed in perpetual darkness with overly colorful lighting. The post processing gives a high contrast look to the film, along with an unhealthy amount of blue and green tinting. It's not a pretty film to look at. One might even conclude that it was shot on video. The pacing is extremely slow and the editing seems forced and amateurish. The action scenes are sluggish and uninteresting, and it's only Brian Tyler's score that cues the audience that something exciting is supposed to be happening. Actually, apart from Ms. Young, I found the music score to be the most compelling aspect of the film, and I was constantly aware of its presence. While the film is watchable (and occasionally laughable), it doesn't really satisfy an action craving.