Bangkok Dangerous 2-Disc Special Edition
Directed by Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun
Starring Nicolas Cage, Charlie Yeung, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Panward Hemmanee, Nirattisai Kaljaruek
Lionsgate Home Entertainment
Release Date: January 6, 2009
Last fall, I became intimately familiar with the trailer for Bangkok Dangerous. With an advertising wallet seemingly bigger than their budget for the film itself, the two-minute teaser was splashed all over television and the Internet for a month. In my case, it was attached to nearly every video on GameVideos.com, which I was required to use daily for my job. You probably know the trailer I mean, but if not you can check it out for yourself at the bottom of this review. It begins with an awkward voice-over from a Nicolas Cage who believes himself to be as bad-ass as his name implies. The narration ends and the action scene montage begins with the goofiest line imaginable: “My name is Joe. This is what I do.” If that doesn’t conjure up images of a cold-blooded assassin, well…yeah, it really doesn’t.
Despite the lukewarm first impression, the intro scene to the film, which also climaxes in the “My name is Joe” line, actually works rather well. There is a nice build-up as the camera cuts quickly and dramatically between Cage’s character in a belltower with a sniper rifle, his target in a building across from the tower, and his watch, counting down to the exact moment when he must fire the shot. The watch’s alarm goes off, the bell tolls, the shot is fired, and the target falls dead. And after all of that, we find out the assassin’s name. As unimaginative as his parents may have been, this introduction certainly raised my standards from my originally grim trailer-based expectations. Just not for long.
Bangkok Dangerous is not actually the story of a hard-edged killer, but rather that of such a killer realizing the error of his ways, a classic tale that is handled very clumsily here. From the start of the film, Joe’s narration informs of us the rules of his trade — obvious notes such as the trailer’s “never make it personal,” and all lessons that Joe proceeds to break one by one. First, he recruits a partner named Kong who he actually kind of likes and begins training. Oh, and don’t worry, kids, Nicolas Cage isn’t actually a bad guy, because as Kong helpfully points out, he only assassinates evil people.
Joe also falls in love with a young deaf/mute women in between fulfilling his contracts. Get it? He’s had his emotions so numbed by a life of killing that he can’t share them, and she literally can’t speak or hear those emotions anyway. Unfortunately, Cage just comes off as creepy when he keeps returning to the pharmacy where the woman works and staring at her from behind aisles. He eventually actually asks her out on a date, but that storyline inevitably fizzles into nothing, as does the moral dilemma when Joe is forced to choose between completing his final job in Bangkok by killing off a well-loved politicians or not getting paid.
It’s only a MINOR SPOILER to mention that he does the right thing, but the choice seems arbitrary and, despite a darker-than-expected ending, doesn’t really lead to anything interesting for the awkward assassin.
Aside from the main feature, the Bangkok Dangerous DVD contains a couple of nice bonuses, including a short documentary on the history of Chinese and Hong Kong filmmaking becoming popular in the West, a making of featurette, and an alternate ending. There’s also a bonus second disc that allows you to download a digital copy for your iPod or PC, which is a pretty fantastic feature, even if this isn’t necessarily a film that will have most viewers begging to have it available on every bit of hardware they own.