Review: Bangkok Dangerous – Dull, Stereotypical, Bad Portrayal of Thailand

One thing I dislike about living in Bangkok, Thailand are the views of others about Bangkok – many of whom have never even been here. The sex trade, the pollution, the dirtiness of the city and the corruption, all seem to be stuck in people’s minds, regardless that these are infinitesimal parts of Bangkok’s reality.

The opening lines of Nicholas Cage’s latest movie, ‘Bangkok Dangerous’, served to seer these images into people’s brains even more.

” Bangkok is corrupt, dirty and dense”. Bangkok is actually all of these and none of these. A true enigma that someone who doesn’t live here would never understand. So, before I even really watched the movie, I was already annoyed. My annoyance, however, reached unmentionable heights upon viewing Nicholas Cage’s performance.

In Bangkok Dangerous, a US remake of a Thai movie of the same name, Cage plays an American hit man who must travel to Bangkok, Thailand, for a new contract. Once in Bangkok, he has to kill four high-profile people but, once he does, he’ll make so much money he’ll be able to retire for life.

Now, I must admit, I’m not a huge Nicholas Cage fan. I think he’s a one-trick actor, who drawls out his lines like a winding-down toy, and who always acts deadpan even when he’s happy. This could have worked for Bangkok Dangerous, but he took this to such an extreme his character actually became a caricature of himself.

The other annoying thing about the movie was, in the original Thai movie version, Joe the hit man was a deaf mute and his girlfriend was the ‘rescuer’, the able-bodied girl who felt sorry for the deaf guy. In the new US version, the roles are reversed and Cage becomes the supposed rescuer with his girlfriend as the deaf mute. She seems pathetic and he just comes off as being creepy and sex tourist-like. Thailand already has enough problems with Western sex tourists coming here. We certainly don’t need one on film to aggravate the problem.

As I said, Bangkok Dangerous is a US remake of a Thai movie. Whenever a US movie is a remake of an original, especially an Asian movie, you can pretty much guarantee the original will be better (The Grudge, The Ring, The Departed are all great examples of this).

In this case, The Pang Brothers, the original writers and directors of the Thai version, also wrote and directed the American version. So, in reality, what was a terrible remake of a Thai classic should actually have been better if the original writers and directors were involved in it. Right?

Wrong. Having seen the original movie, I couldn’t get away from the fact that the US version seemed so dead. In the original, the cinematography is dark and depressing, but it works. You feel sympathy for the main character and are pulled into the underbelly of Bangkok, a world of gangsters and corruption.

In the Cage remake, the movie may be dark but it has no life. Every scene seems flat and dull, with stereotypical situations and characters and no real excitement throughout. Then, the last few scenes are so over done and so dramatized, the movie becomes even more unbelievable.

Bangkok Dangerous isn’t even worth seeing for the cinematography around what is a beautiful and fascinating city. It’s so dark and grimy, I didn’t recognize places in Bangkok I go to every day because they looked so unnaturally dull.

Oh, and before you start blaming the two ‘Thai guys’ who made the film. The Pang Brothers are actually from Hong Kong so it looks like the original movie version may just have been a lucky fluke if, when they have a bigger budget, this is how they decide to film Bangkok.

Avoid the US version of Bangkok Dangerous. I saw it on DVD and it wasn’t worth the rental money. If you really want to see a movie that portrays a hit man in a sympathetic light while showing you a side of Bangkok you may not be aware of, seek out the original Thai version.

It’s available on DVD and VCD with English subtitles and is well worth both the rental price or the purchase price. Plus, Nicholas Cage isn’t in it and that alone is a blessing.

The only upside to this entire movie is the performance of Shahkrit Yamnarm, who plays the Thai guy Joe hires as his ‘assistant’. Cute, smart and often one step ahead of Joe, Khun Shahkrit will probably go far.