Oh brother, here we go again. A professional killer, years into his callous career, suddenly develops a conscience. He decides to take a shady street kid who has already proven to be naïve and unreliable under his wing. Vowing to end his life of secret crime, he commits to one more series of deadly assassinations. With each murder, he finds himself more and more lost. When the last hit goes pear-shaped, he must defend his honor while deciding whether it is better to be the highly paid hunter, or the common everyday prey. Oh yeah, and for an added maudlin effect, there's a deaf girl love interest who makes the hitman pine even harder for that elusive, simple life.
Why the Pang brothers (Danny and Oxide) wanted to remake their 1999 cult favorite Bangkok Dangerous into a mindless, droning Hollywood hack job has only one viable answer -- the interest of former Oscar winner/current paycheck casher Nicolas Cage to play the lead. As Joe, we are treated to Method mediocrity, the kind of performance that finds our systematic slayer following strict protocols and certain succinct rules as a substitute for depth or actual personal dimension. Article continues below
The plot has Cage deciding to give up the game, analyzing the ways he can get out of his occupation once and for all. He decides to take one more job in the title city. There, he befriends street hustler Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), turning him into a quasi-protégé. The rest of the movie is a series of setups for uninteresting, if certainly stylized, pop gun payoffs. Eventually, Joe must decide between people and his personal needs while taking on the syndicate that hired him.
In a movie with many problems, the main flaw in Bangkok Dangerous is that Cage's Joe is never presented as a sympathetic or compelling figure. He's completely depressed and disillusioned from the moment we meet him -- and only gets worse as his situation starts to unravel. Instead of using said circumstances to force his final stand, we are given over to endless sequences of silent brooding. His interest in the local pharmacy clerk (Charlie Yeung) who can't hear seems specious, the twist in their relationship telegraphed by Cage's inherent ability to draw danger to himself. Even his interaction with Kong comes across as a pure narrative device. So does Joe's decision to swoop in and save the thug once the local mobsters decide he's expendable.
In fact, much of this movie feels like lessons badly learned from John Woo. While they avoid the auteur's overuse of slow motion and visual panache, the Pangs have their own set of irritating onscreen tendencies. They think that mannered music video moves and a total desaturation of color equals palpable post-modern noir. It merely inspires current viewing nausea. Even worse, they hamfist their handling of the film's few action sequences, a badly helmed boat chase never becoming suspenseful or thrilling. Even the final firefight set in a factory is so dark that a night vision lens would still render it dimly lit. About the only effective moment occurs when Joe's date with his deaf dream girl goes awry. There, the Pangs play on the syrupy situation to wring out a little forced emotion.
If it didn't feel like such a work of Hollywood hubris and if the original elements that made the first film so intriguing (it was Joe, not the girl, who could not hear) weren't swept aside for more anti-climatic, antiheroic stance, maybe we could support what Bangkok Dangerous was striving to accomplish. But everything here feels like the proverbial sound and fury, filled with typical Asian action film gravitas yet signifying nothing. A whole lot of nothing.