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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Movie Review: Bangkok Dangerous

Bangkok Romance, perhaps?


RATING: 3.0/5


Our dear Mr. Cage starrs in yet another action movie, a movie that involves an assassin, to be exact. Almost instantly, over-the-top vehicle chases, spectacular fighting scenes, and a mysterious atmosphere were conjured up in my mind. What could possibly go wrong? Of course, things could possibly go wrong and Bangkok Dangerous shows how it can be done.

A remake of a 1999 Asian film of the same name, Nicholas Cage is Joe the assassin in Bangkok Dangerous. Joe’s last job takes him to Bangkok where he has been engaged by a notorious crimelord to carry out 4 contract killings. This being Joe’s last job, he would obtain his final suitcase of cash and retire once all 4 targets have been silenced. However, assassins always seem to have the worst of lucks and as you would have guessed by now, things fail to go according to plans.

Prior to his assignment in Bangkok, Joe would always abide by his rules – rules that ensure the survival of an assassin. Unfortunately, Joe becomes too senile to recall his rules by his last job. En route to attain more information on his first target, Joe spots a local watch peddler, Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm). Capitalizing on the peddler’s greed, Joe offers him some money so that he could be his runner – which also makes Joe’s task of covering his tracks more convenient. Demonstrating what a hitman should never do, Joe warms up to Kong after the later successfully accomplishes a few errands and becomes his mentor. Meanwhile, Joe falls for a local woman – a mute pharmacist vaguely acknowledged as Fon (Charlie Yeung). Certainly, trusting people one hardly knows a day before and building relationships with them isn’t going to be part of an assassin’s training – further evidence that Joe isn’t fit to be a hitman any longer. Needless to say, the aforementioned relationships become his undoing.

To start with, it’s near impossible to identify what this movie is driving at. If Bangkok Dangerous is supposed to be an action movie, it has just failed miserably. There were several instances where I thought things would escalate into a nail-biting action scene, but was brutally let down. This film is choke full with so many stale and generic scenes like sniper-at-the-window and shoot-and-escape sequences, as well as plan-failed and run-into-crowd-and-hope-to-evade-police sequences, so much so that everything becomes REALLY really predictable within the first 30 minutes. For an action movie, I was expecting more creativity in the screenplay. Creativity isn’t the only thing lacking, however, as action sequences are so short and forgettable that there’s really nothing to suggest that thought and effort have been put into making the movie as thrilling as possible. In fact, the only noteworthy scene in this film is the boat chase that takes place at the floating market. Otherwise, rarely have scenes convince me that this is an action movie.

Feeding time.

Perhaps Bangkok Dangerous is supposed to a film touching on romance. No, casting the typical hot girl to lure our assassin into love just wouldn’t cut it – obviously, the production crew has to spice things up, right? So we have this mute pharmacist called Fon as Joe’s love interest. Quite interestingly, the fact that Fon is mute adds another dimension into how the romance plays out in the film. Being mute means that feelings have to be communicated via actions and facial expressions (think Wall-E), adding to the challenge of creating a realistic romance sequence. Fortunately, in that regard, Bangkok Dangerous has an unerring success rate. However, for all the impressive performance as far as the romance portions are concerned, the film fails to flesh out the characters and story – in the beginning, at least. Joe and Fon take as fast as a flick of a coin to fall in love – something that sounds considerably unbelievable, but thankfully, a respectable amount of time was spent on the detailing the dating parts so the romance story arc is still plausible. It’s weird that while Bangkok Dangerous is marketed as an action film, its romance portions actually outshine its action scenes.

So you wonder – this is Bangkok Romance, right, not Bangkok Dangerous as the people behind this film would have you to believe. Well, perhaps this film’s Bangkok Travelogue too. As much as I must credit the romance scenes here for being outstanding, I can’t help but feel that this movie is also a free advertisement for Thailand’s tourism industry in disguise. During the course of the entire film, various places of attractions, Thai customs, cultures, festivals and food were introduced that this film is as much of a solid travelogue program as it is of a romantic movie (may I remind you again that this film is more romance than action).

Final Comments
This is Bangkok Dangerous, Bangkok Romance and Bangkok Travelogue. Well, it seems that the production crew just can’t decide what kind of film they were going to create. On the action front, this film is clearly very disappointing. But on the romance front, this film is one of the better ones, if not one of the best (I bet Wall-E is the inspiration). And thanks for introducing me to the wonders of Thailand. Given that this film’s been marketed as an action flick, it would almost be certain that you would be going into the cinema expecting some spectacular action sequences, but look beyond the dismal action here, and what you will find is a decent film.


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