Nicolas Cage and Shahkrit Yamnarm in Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Playing it Safe than Dangerous

Assassins are bad men, the make a living by breaking the rules but in order to survive they have their own rules it is only when they break their own rules do they get caught. That sentence sums up so many movies about assassins and also those who break the law in other ways, such as transporting unknown packages and it means that many of these movies are basically the same. That brings me to "Bangkok Dangerous" a Hollywood remake made by the same directors who made the 1999 original with just a bigger budget and a Hollywood lead in Nicolas Cage. I haven't seen the 1999 version so don't know how it compares but judging it as another hitman movie it is only average.

Joe (Nicolas Cage - National Treasure: Book of Secrets) is an assassin, hired by anonymous people to kill various targets a job which he has been successful at for years because he has lived by a series of rules which have kept him detached from everyone involved. Having decided to call it a day he heads to Bangkok to pull off 4 hits in the one place and set himself up for retirement. But Joe makes a mistake, he not only gets close to Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) who he hires as an unknowing assistant but also deaf girl Fon (Charlie Yeung) who he grows close to and by breaking his own rules puts himself in danger.

Charlie Yeung as Fon in Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

So forget the styling and the fact that here we have a movie set in the bustling Bangkok and what you have is the same basis of so many assassin movies. The introduction sets up that Joe has rules he lives by, deadly rules which means he kills the young men he pays to unknowingly assist so erasing all trace of his involvement. And then predictably on his last job he ends up connecting not just with Kong, the unknowing assistant but romantically with a young deaf girl. It is all very predictable and aside from a surprise ending it plays out in an obvious and routine manner as eventually Joe pays for breaking his own rules.

So "Bangkok Dangerous" uses the same basic idea as many movies and it doesn't automatically mean its bad because there are other things to consider. Now what is good about "Bangkok Dangerous" is that Joe is ruthless, when we watch him kill his first assistant it paints a dark picture of him, detached from everyone he meets. And whilst the various action sequences are routine, yes there is an obligatory chase sequence, the snappiness of them is good because they are not drawn out longer than needs be.

But that also brings me to what is bad about "Bangkok Dangerous" and the whole styling feels forced. From washed out tones to frenetic editing and a drum and base driving beat it is head ache inducing and because these frenetic sequences are sporadic they jar with the rest of the movie which is smooth in comparison. Some will love it; they will love the driving drum beat as we get enough flashing lights and snappy edits to induce a fit but it feels old hat and just a copy of other movies.

As for Nicolas Cage in the main role of Joe, well it feels like an anonymous performance. Other than a brief moment when Joe cracks a smile as he shows his fondness for Fon the rest of the movie Cage plays Joe as blank, probably rightly so for a man who has detached himself from friendship but it makes him boring. In fact it is Shahkrit Yamnarm as Kong who makes the biggest impact as he delivers a cocky almost arrogant young hustler who finds himself in over his head.

What this all boils down to is that "Bangkok Dangerous" may have been originally a good movie in 1999 but the 2008 remake is ordinary. For all the snappy styling it is just another assassin movie where the assassin breaks his own rules.