A toxic blend of gun-for-hire midlife crisis, homicidal existential angst and a little unscheduled serious sex tourism on the side, Bangkok Dangerous is a cut above the typical crime thriller. Not only for its Thai cityscapes drenched in moody exotica, but the depth of emotional intensity that Nicolas Cage lends to this otherwise thinly conceived globe trotting reluctant hitman.
Directing their own remake are Hong Kong born action guru twins Oxide and Danny Pang (The Eye). The screenplay is written by Jason Richman (Swing Vote) who seems to have an affinity for conjuring angry white guy leading men as a specialty.
Bangkok Dangerous is as much about the downside of professional serial killing as a life vocation, as it is about serious on-the-job burnout. Nicolas Cage mopes and shuffles through the movie as Joe, an introspective hitman who shoots humans and heroin alike while griping about the big bucks pay being the only worthwhile aspect of his self-appointed grim reaper directives.
Joe turns up in Bangkok to carry out some executions for a local bleached blonde gangster, Surat (Nirattisai Kaljaruek), and he resolves that this will be his last assignment before he likely loses his edge. Seeking out a sidekick who can help him navigate this unfamiliar terrain, Joe recruits goofy pickpocket Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), in his mind a disposable accessory like many others before, that he can kill to avoid leaving any trace of himself behind. But Joe soon becomes attached to the young, eager apprentice, against his professional instincts.
Joe also violates his own strict codes which forbid getting involved with humans, when he becomes smitten with a Thai deaf mute female pharmacist who tends to his wound following some messy gang warfare interlude. And later still, the depressed assassin must face a dilemma when sent to kill an admired political leader, a contradiction of his world view where an overwhelmingly predatory, amoral universe has always been an absolute.
Some of the action sequences in Bangkok Dangerous are quite stunning, including a drowning and a motorized canoe chase through the inner city canals. But the mostly dark, dank exteriors often make it difficult to distinguish the good guys from the designated baddies. And not making much sense is why the Bangkok crimelords would go to such lengths to import a conspicuous Caucasian hitman who doesn’t exactly blend into the crowds, when they seem quite sufficient in number and firepower to do their own dirty work quite nicely themselves. Though there’s enough here to commend this arty assassin fare as well as Cage’s never disappointing performance, no matter how cranky the guy can be.
2 1/2 stars