Nic Cage Stars as Wanton Hit Man in Remake of Pang Brothers Shoot ‘Em Up
When you pair Nicolas Cage with the Pang Brothers, something’s gotta give. While the Oscar-winning actor (for Leaving Las Vegas) is an A-list star ordinarily associated with high-quality Hollywood productions, the Thailand-based twins are generally known as purveyors of micro-budget B-movies sorely lacking, cinematically, in terms of plausibility and coherency. Unfortunately, Oxide and Danny apparently prevailed when it came to the creation of Bangkok Dangerous, a slapdash remake of the siblings’ first feature-length collaboration of the same name made back in 1999.
The original, a tawdry tale of violence and redemption, revolved around a deaf mute assassin-for-hire inspired to atone for his sins after falling head-over-heels for a compassionate cashier. This new, if not improved, version flips the script slightly, changing the protagonist’s nationality from Thai to American. Another switcheroo involves afflicting the love interest with the aforementioned disabilities, thus enabling Cage’s Joe to be the one that shows empathy. Oh, he also narrates the play-by-play in an annoyingly blasé monotone.
At the point of departure we find Joe en route to Bangkok for a deadly assignment that is supposed to be that proverbial last big payday before retirement. Via voiceover, the cocky mercenary offers a quick primer on his profession: “(1) Don’t ask questions; (2) There is no right and wrong; (3) Don’t take an interest in people outside of work; and (4) Know when to get out and walk away rich.”
Upon arriving in Thailand, however, he immediately proceeds to ignore all of his own advice. For example, even though he’s presumably only in town to execute four people and make a quick getaway, he somehow finds the time to train a young street urchin (Shahkrit Yamnarm) as a protégé, ala Mr. Miyagi in The Karate Kid. Equally improbably, the supposedly singularly-focused cold-blooded murderer has his head turned by the cute pharmacy clerk (Charlie Yeung) who bandages his wounded arm after a fierce gun battle.
The two subsequently start dating, and in the relatively-sane private moments they share, such as feeding an elephant bananas, Joe discovers his sensitive side. Belatedly imbued with a suddenly-functioning conscience, he finds himself hesitant to return to his grisly line of work, a no-no in such a nasty kill-or-be-killed business.
Will the kindlier-friendlier Joe muster up the courage to finish the job, collect his fee and disappear into the sunset with the girl? You’ll have to buy a movie ticket to find that out. But just be prepared to suffer through two hours of one-dimensional characters delivering cliché-ridden lines laced with fortune cookie logic like, “When the nightmare becomes real, it becomes pretty simple.” An excessively violent, sloppily-edited, unintentionally funny, overly sentimental affair which has nothing much going for it beyond a snazzy score and some stylized special effects.
How do you borrow the best elements of The Transporter, The Karate Kid and Mission Impossible and end up with an unwatchable mess like this?