I’ve always had a sortof love/hate relationship with Nicolas Cage. I loved him in Raising Arizona. Hated him for years in pretty much everything after that. He gets points for Leaving Las Vegas, but I maintain that it’s Elisabeth Shue who deserves the credit more than he. Then in 2005 he fell back into my good graces by having two of my favorite films of that year, The Weatherman and Lord of War. Since then he’s slipped quite naturally into his role as the turd in the punchbowl with films like Next, Ghost Rider, and the uncomfortably bad The Wicker Man. Nic Cage’s latest film, Bangkok Dangerous, is an attempt to make what I assume is his version of Luc Besson’s classic Leon the Professional. Only not good.
Assuming you’re able to get past the USA TV Movie title, you’ll be treated to Cage’s stiff portrayal of Joe. Joe is a hitman. One of the world’s best. The Russian’s swear by him. Ofcourse they also swear by Yakhov Smirinov and drink vodka with their Frosted Flakes. Joe is a bit depressed lately. You can tell because he tells us in droll, boring narration that completely takes you out of the film. Most of the time I’m not a fan of narration in movies because I don’t feel it’s necessary…except when it IS necessary. It’s only necessary when the actors aren’t capable of expressing emotion on screen, and Nic Cage fits that bill to a tee. To paraphrase my personal idol, Dorothy Parker, “He runs the gamut of emotions from A to B.”
Got off topic for a second there. So Joe is depressed. He’s depressed because his job makes it hard to meet chicks. To have any real personal relationships with anyone. He’s got no friends or lovers. Nothing. He longs for companionship. Why doesn’t he just buy a dog? I don’t know. Instead, Joe takes a big multi-target job in Bangkok. Joe hires some local help in the form of a petty swindler named Kong. Kong and Joe have a tenuous relationship at first. Kong is headstrong and a bit too relaxed for Joe’s liking. Given the nature of the work, Joe has a need for strict adherence to schedules. After awhile, Joe and Kong begin to click. Joe begins training Kong on the skills to be a successful hitman.
Bangkok must be a hotbed of the hitman social scene, because Joe also manages to find himself a girlfriend. She’s typically beautiful and innocent to a ridiculous degree to contrast the morally objectional life Joe leads. When Joe runs afoul of some local gangsters out for his head, his new found relationships suddenly are thrust into harm’s way, and Joe must decide whether or not it’s worth it to keep them around and leave himself open or cut them off and risk losing happiness forever.
I compared this movie to Leon for obvious reasons. The plotline is similar, only Kong isn’t a twelve year old Natalie Portman and the random nameless gangster after Joe is no Gary Oldman. The themes of the two films are identical, with a morally ambiguous hitman basically deciding between his career and love. Both make him stronger and weaker in different ways, and he must choose what is most important to him. But also deciding whether or not to basically corrupt another by passing on his knowledge comes into play. That’s where the similarity ends. This movie is awful. Nicolas Cage, who also produced this turd, phones in every single line of dialogue this “script” had to offer. It’s apparent from the outset that this was an exercise in budget cutting production. There’s not a single actor in this film worthy of note. Every performance is flat. Even the action scenes are dull and lifeless. There’s not a single sense of creativity to be found. It’s as if someone found “Stock Hitman Film” Treatment lying on the floor, coerced(blackmailed??) Nic Cage into funding and starring in it and hope it flies.
Not that I should be surprised by any of this. The film was directed by the Pang Brothers, who’s most recent American work was a film I loathed called The Messengers. It was another one of those PG-13 horror films with lots of loud noise but no actual scares. One of their previous films is titled Bangkok Haunted. I assume Bangkok Bikini Blast is somewhere in the pipeline. Maybe Nic Cage will star in that, also. Atleast it won’t be the Wicker Man. Or this.