Hong Kong-born twins Danny and Oxide Pang, who started their filmmaking career in Thailand, retooled their own BANGKOK DANGEROUS (1999) as a morose, slow-moving action picture for Nicolas Cage.
Killer-for-hire Joe (Cage) is tired of the alienation and loneliness that go with his line of work, so he takes one last job – a series of four murders in Thailand – and then plans to retire. That plan never works, especially when you violate all the rules of contract killing, especially the ones that prohibit knowing too much about your target and getting emotionally involved with people. So Joe promptly takes on a protege – Thai street hustler Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) – and begins a tentative romance with Fon (Charlie Yeung), a naïve, deaf-mute beauty who works in an all-night pharmacy. Kong in turn falls for Aom (Panward Hemmanee) , a jaded bar girl who acts as the intermediary between Joe and the sleazy gangster who hired him sight unseen. The closer Joe gets to Fon the less he wants to finish the blood job he signed on for, especially after he discovers that one of the targets is an honest politician whom Kong says has devoted his career to helping the poor and oppressed.
In BANGKOK version 1.0, Kong is a deaf-mute assassin trained by an older killer named Joe; Aom is Joe's girlfriend and Kong is torn between Fon's love and the brutal business of avenging Joe's death. Jason Richman's screenplay shuffled the characters and comes up with something even more derivative and cliché-driven than the original, which got by on bold style and a particularly Asian mix of outrageous violence and unabashed sentimentality. Cage's Joe is a nattering cipher with a greasy, jet-black, flagrantly artificial hairpiece that countermands yet another basic rule of murder for hire – be inconspicuous – and Kong is an enigma: Nothing about him suggests that he has the makings of a stone cold killer, either before or after Joe takes on the task of training him. The film is handsomely cold looking, but so generic that it's hard to work up much interest in its car chases, shoot outs and frequent breaks to ogle the firm young flesh for sale in Bangkok's fleshpots. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh