Tuesday, August 17, 2010
When I first heard about the Bangkok Dangerous remake , I was unsure what to think. I am not a big Nic Cage fan, but I am a Pang Brothers fan, and found their previous American outing, the flawed The Messengers, to be a decent but underwhelming break into the US market. Now we get a remake of their career starting masterpiece. One I have actually not seen, but have heard a great deal about. A director remaking his own film in a new market is not something new. Japanese director Takashi Shimizu did it with his famed Ju-on: The Grudge franchise re made simply as The Grudge and The Grudge 2. With Bangkok Dangerous is basically a Thai production funded by what appear to be enthusiastic American producers (though behind the scenes interviews can be deceiving). So this time The Pangs were given the funds needed to really stretch their legs.
Nic Cage plays an Assassin named Joe, who is taking on his ‘last job’ in Thailand. He is to take out four targets, collect his money, and leave the business for good. A plot set up we have all seen before and can agree that if we ever become successful assassins, and decide to take on “one last job”, it would be in our best interest to, well, not! However Joe does not take this advice and goes to Thailand for this last mission anyway. Joe has a standard operating procedure. He settles in, finds a lowlife to hire as his runner, completes his hits, kills the runner, takes his money and moves on. All while adhering to four simple rules. 1) Don’t ask questions, 2) Leave no trace of your identity, 3) Don’t make lasting bonds with other people, and 4) Know when to get out. Well we all know he broke rule 4 already, but his problems really begin when he starts breaking rule 3. This is where we start to see some similarities to the original film. He meets and falls for a young mute woman at a pharmacy, played wonderfully by the great Charlie Yeung, and then finds himself caring for his lowlife runner (Shahkrit Yamnarn) to the point of training him to be an assassin himself. An aspect of the plot that seems to be meant as an homage to the kung fu films of old. These decisions start a chain reaction that sees out anti-hero seeing the light (as they say). However the more he begins to feel remorse for his work, the worst things get for him until he finally finds himself a target.
In the original version our Assassin is actually a mute, something that would have really added a lot to this version, and especially Nic Cage’s character. Weather is as a decision by the Pangs to make this drastic change, or perhaps the producers didn’t want their big named actor not speaking we will never know. However Cage manages to pull off the role pretty well, though I could imagine there is more than one A list Hollywood actor that may have been able to pull it off better. It did help that Cage himself is a fan or both the pangs and the original film, so he did bring with him a good deal of personal enthusiasm. Aside from Cage the rest of the cast is primarily Thai, with the exception of Charlie Yeung of course. As I mentioned above she did a wonderful job. Playing a mute requires far more talent than one may think, and her ability to convey her emotions with simple expressions, really shows what a talented actress she is. It was Shahkrit Yamnarn who in the end steals the show. He enters the film as a mere lowlife thief, but his character gets very well developed throughout the film and is capable of making you care for his situation far more than Joe. Where the film lacks the solid plot and unique storytelling it makes up in sheer style. The Pangs use the full extents of their talents to give us a great looking film, and manage to really give the world a look at just how stunning Bangkok really is. In fact the city almost becomes a character itself.
Bangkok Dangerous didn't steal any awards, and certainly doesn't break any new grounds in action film making, but its not the worst entry into the drab Hollywood action genre. I can only hope this isn’t the last we have seen on The Pangs, or any foreign film makers getting their shot to show Hollywood what they have to offer. Yuen Woo Ping came into the market with The Matrix and helped change Martial Arts film making in Hollywood for good, maybe the Action genre will receive the same one day.
A Film by The pang Brothers