- The Pang Brothers
- Nicolas Cage, Shaun Delaney, Steve Baldocchi, Nirattisai Kaljaruek
- 100 min.
- Release Date
Bangkok Dangerous is another attempt by Hollywood to prove Hong Kong filmmakers Oxide and Danny Pang in an American market. Previous efforts include The Eye, a remake of their 2002 film, and The Messengers, their first English-language production. The Pang Brothers (as they like to be called) made their debut with a Thai-language movie called Bangkok Dangerous back in 1999, about a deaf assassin named Kong being taught how to kill by a veteran hitman named Jo, whose girlfriend Aom loves them both. Most of those elements are present in this remake starring Nicolas Cage, just scrambled around a bit for western audiences.
In the new version, Cage plays veteran assassin Jo who trains Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to become a hitman; meanwhile, Jo falls for Aom (Panward Hemmanee), a deaf pharmacist whose innocence makes him feel guilty about the nature of his work. As you can see, it’s the same basic concept, with some melodramatic tweaking here and there. The results are similar too—both feel like they’re walking backwards in the footsteps of John Woo.
Changes were made from a “marketing point-of-view,” according to the twin brother directors remaking their own movie, meaning The Pangs sold out by conceding to studio demands, and therein forfeited all interesting aspects of their original picture. Screenwriter Jason Richman, who wrote the dreadful Chris Rock vehicle Bad Company, adapted their film for American audiences, dumbing down the concept of a deaf assassin who can’t hear gunshots nor the pleading of his victims, into a run-of-the-mill hitman story we’ve seen a dozen times before.
Richman’s script follows its subject’s standard blueprint—a hitman seeks redemption but finds himself propelled toward an inevitable bullet-riddled fate. Just this year, In Bruges employed the same skeletal outline, and instead of playing out every formulaic move, the film assembled itself with hilariously scathing dialogue, bravado acting for lovable characters, and a surprisingly poetic conclusion to it all. No doubt Richman was instructed to declaw the Pangs’ story, but then why bother calling it a remake if only a few plot points resemble its source?
Such questions prompt ongoing debates about remakes, when they work, when they don’t, and when will Hollywood stop already? While some moviegoers dread them, I remain open-minded to a new director’s approach. After all, without remakes we wouldn’t have John Huston’s The Maltese Falcon, John Carpenter’s The Thing, or David Cronenberg’s The Fly—all vast improvement on their respective sources. Even when a director revisits his own material like the Pang Bros. have done here, the results have occasionally proved favorable—like Hitchcock’s 1956 remake of his own 1934 film The Man Who Knew Too Much.
These are the rare exceptions to the rule that most remakes will never be better than the original. This is why they should be made from films that didn’t get it right the first time, and thus require another go-around. Unfortunately, this seldom happens, as Bangkok Dangerous proves. Indeed, this remake tries to balance its bustling locale with a disproportionately routine story. When a setting pops with neon and active markets and fast-talking hustlers, how can we be expected to tolerate the bland script comprised of dull action scenes and gushy moments involving Cage and Hemmanee? The few warm interludes where he struggles patiently and tenderly with her incapacity to hear present a welcomed pause from the gunplay—but as the blood flies later on, violence is unmistakably the Pang Bros’ chief concern.
Cage looks simply awful. His hairdresser from Next is back with a vengeance, and now his dietician has struck a severe blow. Looking like he was just released from a POW camp after ten years of hard labor, Cage’s thin face carries a fixed expression of worry on his brow, as if ailed by painful gastrointestinal rumblings. Did the filmmakers fail to provide Pepto Bismal onset? Alas no, this is what passes for pensive acting in Cage’s book.
Producing through his company Saturn Films, Cage places himself in another humdrum actioner, and I can’t be sure why. Perhaps his career goals include becoming The King of B-Movies. After junk like Ghost Rider and The Wicker Man, he’s certainly headed that way. The time has long-since-passed when I would’ve anticipated his movies because he added something unique to the role; now his presence seems to exclusively take away. And so, realizing Cage’s presence represents the best part of Bangkok Dangerous says little for the rest of the picture.