“Bangkok Dangerous” No. 1 at box office despite weak, confusing plot

by Emily SchettlerCopy Editor

Nicolas Cage has won Oscars in the past (“Leaving Las Vegas”), but his performance in “Bangkok Dangerous” won’t be getting him any awards. Nor will his producing. Still, “Bangkok Dangerous” somehow managed to take top honors at the box office last weekend, grossing $7.8 million on its debut weekend, the slowest box office weekend in five years.

Directed by the Pang brothers, the movie was a remake of their 1999 film with the same name. That movie was decent at best. Whoever allowed them to create a second should be fired for poor decision-making and sheer stupidity. The updated American version is atrocious in every aspect, beginning with the plot.

Joe, played by Nicolas Cage, is an assassin headed to Bangkok to work his final job. It’s unclear throughout the entire film who he’s working for, who he’s killing and why he is killing them. It is an ongoing cycle that goes something like this: A confrontation with the boss, a motorcycle chase, a shootout, repeat. With one exception.

There were, however, the typical action movie staples. There was a high-speed chase involving motorized gondolas in the middle of a floating market, which ends with Cage cutting off a man’s arm with the boat propeller. Cut to a clear shot of the arm lying in the middle of the boat squirting out blood.

Then there’s the classic warehouse scene where Joe kills at least a dozen people single-handedly, all to save his student, Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) and Kong’s girlfriend.

No good action thriller would be complete without a side-story romance. Bangkok Dangerous is no different. But the Pang brothers’ attempted twist on that story was completely unsuccessful. Joe becomes entranced by a deaf mute pharmacist who doesn’t understand English. Their scenes together are silent and seem to drag on and on.

Cage’s character, and simply the film in general, are impossible to relate to. There is no explanation of why he is killing people and I wondered what made them bad people.

He discusses this briefly with Kong while watching a politician on television. Kong tells Joe that he, like the politician, is a good person because he kills bad people and helps the poor. The line makes no sense. At no point in the movie does Joe actually help the impoverished people of Bangkok. He does, however, take Kong’s words to heart and realizes that maybe picking off every person he disagrees with isn’t necessary.

The cinematography is egregious. At times, the movie is almost painful to watch because the scene is so out of focus. The special effects are shoddy and the visuals poor and grotesque. When an enemy gets blown in half by a bomb, the remains look like they belong to an alien from “Men in Black,” not a person.

As the credits rolled, I sat in disbelief at the fact that I, and the other eight people in the theater, had just wasted an hour and forty minutes of our weekend watching the most disastrous attempt at an action movie ever.