Nicolas Cage has been in some of the best films ever made. Drama, comedy, action…the man’s done it all and with an often thought provoking story to back up his acting. Bangkok Dangerous is not one of those cases. Aside from Cage’s moody characterization of a man who is lonely by choice, there’s nothing in this film that has any depth and critics and audiences largely agreed; the film has exasperatingly low scores across the board and failed to make even half of its budget back domestically; even taking into account the films worldwide intake, it still didn’t break even. While not necessarily the worst film Cage has ever done, it was one of the worst of 2008.
As a hired assassin, Joe (Nicolas Cage) is the best in the business, but the years of stone-cold murder have taken their toll. Joe’s plan to make this current assignment in Bangkok his last takes a wild turn when he violates one of the most important rules of the game. Now the hunter is the hunted in this hard-driving, action-packed thriller. Also starring Charlie Young, Shahkrit Yamnarm, and Panward Hemmanee.
I knew all about the bad reviews and I knew all about the harsh things people had to say about this film, but Cage has grown on me as an actor over the years and I wanted to give this film the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately for me, there were no benefits to watching this movie aside from a few nicely done action sequences that did actually deliver on the trailers promises. But the rest of the film was just such an overall…pointless affair that I had no idea what this film was attempting to convey. I truly did want to like this one but…man, it didn’t make it easy.
But before I delve into the stupidity of it, I’ll instead focus on the good: the action. Directed by The Pang Brothers, who directed a 1999 film of the same name (that, from the sounds of it, was a much better film than this was) that had about the same plot but with re-arranged characters and motives, Bangkok Dangerous is certainly a visual feast. There are some fantastic sharp shooter views as well as up close and personal encounters to see here, but my favorite bits were the boat battle that ended with an underwater shot of bullets flying through the bottom of the boat and into the water. Something about that shot just screamed “cool” to me and the end shoot out was also quite entertaining; plenty of wild maneuvers and exciting visuals to gaze upon with the lighting and water jugs spilling and falling everywhere.
And that pretty much does it for the good things in this film. The film starts out promisingly enough, with a rough idea of who Joe is (and maybe it’s because I’ve been watching Dexter for the last few weeks, but he seems to have a similar rule of thumb when killing people…which he then partially passes onto someone else), but never delving too much into his life. Really, what we learn about Joe is in the first ten minutes of the film and only one of his character bits change towards the end and even then it’s a bit ridiculous. This makes for some hollow watching, as Joe tries to connect with a woman he falls for, but eventually turns her away. You want to know how he turns her away? By saving her life. Since she can’t hear (which was actually a trait of Joe in the original 1999 film, apparently…they just split that piece out because we needed to hear Cage speak and made the deaf element a love interest), when she and Joe were walking through the park and Joe got mugged, Joe pulled the gun from one of the assailants and killed them. This freaked her out and she ran away. And that’s why they broke up. So…don’t save that girl’s life, ‘cause when the people who tried to kill her boyfriend die, she just gets upset and runs away.
On top of all of this, Joe takes a man named Kong under his wing and teaches him the ways of being a total bad ass. Why? No idea, to be honest. Nothing in Joe’s character really pointed towards why he would do this and although Cage offers some narration over the “reasoning” for it, I had a hard time believing any of what this movie was cramming down our throats.
It’s a shame the film was so…empty. It really felt like it never went anywhere, but those who end up seeing it will at least get to see some beautiful visuals. Plenty of great city shots and unique directing choices are made in this film, but the plot (what there is of it) is just about as empty as one of those pierced water jugs from the final shoot out. Like the film, the jug started out full but one the bullet was fired, water (plot) just quickly drained out leaving an empty shell. Skip It.
It’s a shame this film sucked, because Lionsgate really gave it a nice treatment (as they always do with their films). The set itself arrives in a standard two-disc Blu-ray case (second disc is the digital copy) with an insert that includes the digital copy code and disc art that mimics the front and rear art. Menu’s are simple and easy to navigate and include neat little sound effects when switching between options.
The AVC encoded 1.78:1 film is quite a pretty picture, with deep blacks and a fantastic array of colors to fill the night and club sequences. The aforementioned boat and final shootouts look fantastic as well, with plenty of detail from beginning to end. You can even count the number of hairs coming out of Cage’s head if you want, although I must say after seeing him have a similar hair in Next, I think he could do with a haircut…he just looks weird with long hair. I wish there was more to say about the visuals of this film, but anyone who has seen the trailer should have a pretty good idea of what the film looks like. Truly, it is a fantastic transfer and I give Lionsgate props for giving so much attention to a film that really didn’t perform well at all for them.
The audio is even more impressive than the video transfer and for one simple reason: it’s a 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio track. Yup, Lionsgate once again graces us with a 7.1 surround track that will blow the roof off of your house. As can be expected with a 7.1 track, there is plenty of surround activity in the tense action sequences, but honestly for this hour and forty minute long film, the majority of the surrounds are wasted. The action sequences, while engaging, are really sparse and the rest of the time it’s just talking or monologue, so it’s kind of a waste of 7.1 since most of it’s all coming from the fronts anyway. Still, it’s a nice inclusion and I’m glad Lionsgate is one of few studios who are active in providing 7.1 tracks. Also included is a DD5.1 French track and English, English SDH and Spanish subtitles.
There aren’t a whole lot of extras here to check out, but after you watch this film you’ll be lucky to want to watch anything related to this film again, so I guess that’s ok. First up is From Hong Kong to Bangkok (15:21, 1080i), a look at Hong Kong cinema and The Execution of the Film (13:31, 1080i) which acts as our making-of for this release. Finally we have the Alternate Ending (8:38, 1080p) which honestly is about twenty times better than what they did decide to end with. We knew so little about Joe’s character to begin with and for the movie to end the way it did…well, let’s just say if you paid to see this in the theater and regretted paying for it within the first hour and a half, the last ten minutes would’ve made you tear up the ticket stub in anger. This alternate ending, while less profound, just feels better as it at least gave the audience something to hold onto after it ended.
Overall Bangkok Dangerous is really quite a terrible film. While watching it I was reminded of several other B-movie action flicks with similarly bad plotting and execution, but by the end of the film I just realized it was just a bad film all around. The Blu-ray helps with a fantastic visual and aural presentation, but you won’t get much else out of it besides that. Perhaps worth a Rental if you’re a fan of Cage and movies that make your subwoofer go boom, but if not then you can Skip this one.
Bangkok Dangerous is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.