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The Warsaw Voice » Culture » December 3, 2008
Film review
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Bangkok Dangerous
December 3, 2008 By Witold ¯ygulski   
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Tinseltown has recently got religion on reworking Asian action blockbusters with Martin Scorsese's The Departed (2006), a Hollywood remake of the Hong Kong hit Internal Affairs (2002), being the best known example.

Bangkok Dangerous, a remake of a 1999 Thai movie, preserves the original title and, even more surprisingly, the original directors, Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang. The Pang brothers teamed up with screenwriter Jason Richman once they landed stateside. This has resulted in the plot being modified for audiences in the West although the settings have remained unchanged. The deaf Thai hitman from the original has moved over for Nicolas Cage playing an American named Joe. Joe is in the Thai capital on a month's contract to pull off a string of hits for a local mobster. Although weapons and explosives are his forte, Joe shows that he is also an adept in drowning and other more intimate techniques of doing people in. He also has a knack for slipping in and out of secure areas unseen and unheard. This is just as well because no less a personage than the Thai prime minister is on his list. Joe has taken this one on with a pang of reluctance. Political assassinations are troublesome and risky.

Joe is guided, both personally and professionally, by a simple set of rules. These include "Don't ask questions," "Don't take an interest in people outside of work," "Erase every trace" and "Know when it's time to get out". For no apparent reason, though, he repeatedly breaches each of these precepts in Bangkok and is predictably beset with no end of trouble as a result.

Joe's modus operandi entails enlisting a local accomplice who knows the lie of the land, who can protect Joe's anonymity by acting as a go-between, and who expires (with a little help from Joe) when the contract does. Joe takes on a young pickpocket named Kong as his sidekick in Bangkok, but this is one double act that bombs badly and Joe soon finds himself fighting for his own life.

Cage, an Oscar winner for Leaving Las Vegas (1995) and nominee for Adaptation (2002), occasionally likes to take on ambitious roles, even if they are in action movies like Lord of War (2005). Still, his resume mostly comprises big-budget productions for mass audiences with less than sophisticated tastes-The Rock, Con Air, Gone in 60 Seconds and both parts of National Treasure. Bangkok Dangerous is destined not go down in the annals as one of his major artistic achievements. None of the characters, including his own, is developed beyond the comic book level, the script is one big cliché, the blood and gore is way over the top, and Joe's dialogue is so inane that, at times, a certain unintended hilarity creeps in. For all that, though, Bangkok Dangerous will probably rack up a tidy sum at the box-office, thanks to the stature of Cage as an actor and the exoticism of Bangkok as a setting.
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