Bangkok Dangerous (US - BD RA)
Gabe Powers issues an official letter of resignation on behalf of assassin films
Professional killer ‘Joe’ (Nicolas Cage) is looking for that one last score before retirement, and finds it in Thailand, where he’s contracted for five murders. To keep his anonymity with his employers he picks up a street hustler named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to run his public pickups. It isn’t long, though, before Joe starts to like Kong, and the two enter a master/student relationship. On top of this, Joe falls in love with a gentle, deaf mute pharmacist, and all his rules for survival begin falling out the window.
I think it’s about time to relegate hired killers to the high shelf of the movie closet, at least temporarily. We’ve seen them as monsters, we’ve seen then as saviours, we’ve seen them as fathers, we’ve seen them locked in mid-life crises. They’ve lost their bite and their ability to surprise. At this point we’re just going through the motions. Few movies, however, have the balls to go through the motions as apathetically as the Pang Brother’s remake of their own unremarkable Bangkok Dangerous.
The Pangs and their re-writer Jason Richman cram every subgenre cliché possible into to nooks and crannies of the film’s mind numbing ninety-nine minutes. Witness yet another criminal running down his rules for survival, and witness the same criminal breaking those rules almost immediately, again. Then witness both a training montage and a dating montage, followed by yet another last act Tombstone shoot out. It’s all so embarrassingly uninteresting even rows of dancing Thai strippers and Cage’s worst ever haircut probably won’t pique your interest.
When did Nicolas Cage’s movies become so dull that we all focused on his bad haircuts anyway? I’m looking at his IMDb page and I’m finding nothing particularly interesting since Adaptation, and bad haircuts have been a theme since Fast Times at Ridgemont High. What was his interest in remaking Bangkok Dangerous, after all, this wasn’t just another gig, and the guy was co-producer. Cage has played plenty of killers, and I’m guessing he’s seen all the same contract killer movies the rest of us have seen, so what made this a must do in a slow year?
I’m left with only two solid theories, either Cage really wanted to work with the doubtlessly talented Pang Brothers, or he had a summer home in Bangkok, and didn’t feel like dealing with Hollywood amidst a writer’s strike. My second theory is unlikely, as the film was apparently shelved for an entire year. The Pangs bring a lot of style to the film (which loses the only interesting angle from the original, the lead being a deaf mute), but they don’t bring anything new to the screen they hadn’t already perfected ten years ago. This marks the Brother’s second English language film, and I’m already thinking they might want to avoid the foibles of Hollywood in favour of more movies like Re-Cycle.
Shooting in Bangkok is an advantage to any production, as the city’s mix of third world charm, big city neon, lush jungles, and a lot of bright and warm paint. As residents the Pangs know how to shoot the area, and with a half-decent budget they catch all the right lights and hues. If there’s anything nice to say about the movie, it’s that it definitely looks good. The 1080p disc doesn’t skimp anywhere too obvious, revelling in deep blacks, intense whites, and vibrant colours. Daylight scenes are stylized, featuring deeper and sharper blacks than exist in real life, and some textured fine grain. Other sequences are almost entirely monochromatic, which leads to a lot of compression noise on the standard definition release. On Blu-ray the blue tinted night sequences (those taking place off the neon lit streets), and the bright red climatic shootout are sharp and relatively noiseless.
The Pang’s hyper-reactive editing leads to many unmotivated and abstract sound effects, which in turn leads to a lot of over-the-top surround and stereo effects. Motorcycles and motorboats chase each other through all five channels, bullets zip from behind screen in slow motion, and the sounds of busy Bangkok streets film even the most banal dialogue sequence with texture. The volume of every central sound element is amped to larger than life volumes, ensuring that a crack of gunfire and the thud of a well placed punch will both impact on similar levels. Brian Tyler’s score is even more schmaltzy than usual, but pumps quite a bit of adrenaline into the mix during action cues. The DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack is probably at its most intense during the club scenes, when thumping Thai pop music seems intent on destroying your subwoofer.
‘From Hong Kong to Bangkok’ is a fifteen minute exploration of the Pang Brother’s and Nic Cage’s love of classic Hong Kong cinema. The featurette includes several brief scenes from some of the country’s best pictures, along with a breakneck history of Wu Shu in the movies. Every time our historian tries to bring Bangkok Dangerous into the story the doc loses a tinge of credibility, but for those that still haven’t learned the basics of Hong Kong cinema will find the information valuable, and probably clamour for more.
‘The Execution of the Film’ (13:30) is you basic making-of featurette, which does its best to give the audience good reason to accept Nic Cage going out of his way to make the film. Apparently I was partially correct in my assumptions, in that Cage and his producer buddies just really wanted to make an Asian movie in Asia. The mini-doc never quite leaves the realms of an electronic press kit, but is more informative and even handed than the usual elongated trailer. There’s talk of the Pang’s detailed storyboard approach, but it’s just talk, no examples unfortunately.
The extras come to a close with an alternate ending and the original theatrical trailer. An in depth description of the alternate ending would spoil the chosen ending for those still looking forward to seeing the film, so I’ll just say the difference is much larger than expected. The scene is presented in hi-def video with a DTS-HD soundtrack. The second disc is a digital copy of a film.
The only excuse to watch this version of Bangkok Dangerous is to take in the pretty visuals. The script is terribly unoriginal, and doesn’t even work as a modern retelling of classic Asian themes simply because such a thing was done to death by the early ‘90s. The acting and direction are decent, but mostly it’s just the photography that drives any positive response. The Blu-ray disc displays this above standard photography flawlessly enough, but the extras are unimpressive. I recommend avoiding the film and renting the original instead, or better yet, re-watch John Woo’s The Killer or Luc Besson’s Le Femme Nikita, or any other number of movies about assassins ( The Matador, Kill Bill, Munich, Pulp Fiction, Confession of a Dangerous Mind, Ghost Dog, Collateral, Leon: The Professional, Taxi Driver, or any of the Bourne movies, for example).
*Note: The images on this page are not representative of the Blu-ray release.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 6th January 2008
Disc Type: Blu-ray Disc
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English
Subtitles: English HoH, French, and Spanish
Extras: 'From Hong Kong to Bangkok', 'The Execution of the Film', Alternate Ended, Digital Copy
Easter Egg: No
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Charlie Yeung, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek
Genre: Action and Drama
Length: 99 minutes
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