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DVD Review: Bangkok Dangerous

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The two-disc special edition set of Bangkok Dangerous (with digital copy) features star Nicolas Cage and co-directors/twin brothers Oxide and Danny Pang who remake their 1999 action film of the same name. These Hong Kong-based filmmakers know the genre well and create many striking visuals and memorable moments. The Pang brothers practice great, methodical filmmaking in a solid plot set in the place of Joe’s last official "job" — Bangkok, Thailand.

Nicolas Cage stars as the lonely, talented assassin for hire named Joe. Joe easily adapts to his new crime-filled area of the city described as “corrupt, dirty, and dense.” In the beginning, Joe lays out his four basic rules, then predictably bends and breaks them… again, that “last job” never seems to go right in the movies. His view of right and wrong changes as the plot progresses. Joe’s not a selfish person, but displays similar traits to protect his identity and safety even though he’s a smart, physically formidable killer.

The main cast impresses but better bad guys would have pushed this film to a higher level. Joe starts a romantic relationship (yeah, a broken rule) with Fon, a local woman played by Charlie Yeung. Joe also starts a new partnership with a local named Kong, played by Shahkrit Yamnarm. Joe’s simple teachings like “don’t pull the trigger, squeeze it” and calm demeanor put Kong at ease while he respects Joe’s amazing abilities, which are rarely used.

Joe needs more background especially since he mentions his “teacher” so often in the dialogue and you never get to see him. Joe’s increasing kindness and better sense of humanity begin to equal his killing skills, especially when Kong informs him of local political and socio-economic truths. “He’s a good man, just like you,” Kong says to Joe when discussing a local political figure. Joe is no longer detached from his host society (or, in his case, his workplace), so you know something’s going to give.

As the stakes get higher, you long for that extra sense of tension and drama because you never get the sense that the bad guys can handle Joe. “He’s only one man,” they say as the best tactics they can muster become the typical many vs. one and a hand grenade tactic. Nirattisai Kaljaruek makes his acting debut as the main antagonist Surat. He and his blond haired second-in-command disappoint in the ways of strategy, intelligence, and formidable actions, but add some appeal to this action remake.

The low dialogue and moderately appealing visual content keep this 99 minute movie from stretching too long. The original theatrical ending is influenced by Asian culture, but U.S. audiences will likely prefer the alternate ending, which reinforces the great sense of local community among corruption that Joe sees through his rifle scope and provides a realistic situation where Kong helps his teacher. The extra features include two good featurettes. Critic David Chute hosts an overview tour of Hong Kong cinema while the other feature deals with location filming. Recommended with a few reservations and rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Also available in single-disc and Blu-ray versions.

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