Sunday, September 07, 2008

Bangkok Dangerous

Missing Hitman

I guess I can mark today as Remake day, having to watch two movies which are adaptations or updates to their original, both of which have Asian origins, though one I will be going in blind given that I've not watched its predecessor.

I've only caught the DVD of the Pang Brothers' Bangkok Dangerous, arguably their breakthrough film about a deaf mute hitman, which made audiences round the world sit up and take notice of their talent in crafting gritty stories. There are remakes that have their rights sold to others, and they join the ranks of the rare few who get the call from Hollywood, and given an opportunity to helm a remake of sorts with a bigger budget, and presumably better known stars. Unfortunately, whatever that made Bangkok Dangerous unique the first time round, got thrown out of the window for tried and tested, and therefore safer and predictable fare, that this one looked no more than a bland, generic action movie.

One of the chief aspects of the original that was junked, and that was probably a bad call, was with the mute hitman now being your typical usual hitman, joining the ranks of thousands already out there in cinema. Granted now that you have your Hollywood star, there's absolutely no way he would want to be silenced and not given an opportunity to speak on screen. Nicolas Cage, being producer here, naturally gets a say in the revamp, and sadly, he wanted to relive his Castor Troy days in Face/Off.

Why do I say that? I thought the Pang Brothers' story, and the original movie, steered very clear from trying to resemble your typical Hong Kong / Hollywood action flick, and wanted to stamp their own authority in their take on the action-hitman genre. Hence their original film. This remake probably allowed them to pay a little homage, and probably tested if they can make a bland action film. They succeeded, and allowed themselves some room to pay homage with a balletic slow-motion action sequence where Cage's Joe engages in a fire-fight with 2 guns blazing, with an enemy across stacked water-containers. Tell me if you're not seen something like that before, and they should have thrown in some doves for good measure too.

Nicolas Cage as Joe (in a little name reversal from the original) came at a time where his star wasn't fading that fast, yet. This movie was made a couple of years ago, before Cage turned in some rather blah performances and works such as Ghost Rider, and Next, which was utter trash. There was a Next moment in the movie too, which made me groan out loud, not in pleasure of course. With that Tom Hank's inspired hairdo, Cage plays your hitman without remorse in executing (pardon the pun) his duties. Like Jason Statham's Transporter, he sticks to his rules, but we all know that rules are meant to be broken, and when they do, things get broken.

In this version of Bangkok Dangerous, the international hitman goes to Bangkok for 4 jobs before he can finally retire, and in a land where he cannot speak the language, he decides to adopt a protege in Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) to do his dirty work at first, before breaking a rule and train a disciple ala The Professional (keep that counter on for the numerous references). Each kill brings him closer to his goal, but the jobs do seem to get nastier, and tougher. I thought a hitman should be as clinical and as quiet as possible.

There are some quiet moments, and here's where the problem is. So you say you want a deaf mute person eh? We'll give it to you then, in the form of a love interest Fon, played by Chinese actress pretending to be Thai (it's easy actually since you do not have to speak) in Charlie Young. In yet another flower vase role she plays to perfection, the romance between the hitman and his lady love rang really empty, unlike the emotionally charged one in the original. Perhaps you can blame the cast, but I'd put it squarely on the shoulders of the creators.

The only time where something was kept from the original, was that iconic image of the hitman with his gun to his head. Otherwise, Oxide and Danny Pang in their update of their own film really messed it up, in providing an average action flick with a one man army that could still entertain, but provides the audience with a niggling feeling of deja-vu. Heck, even Job #4 looked like Joe was a Harvey Lee Oswald wannabe.

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