Review: Nicolas Cage is a drag in dreary 'Bangkok Dangerous'

Saturday, September 6, 2008

AP Movie Critic

Nicolas Cage is back to his dreary former self -- you know, the guy who starred a decade ago in such downers as "8MM" and "Bringing Out the Dead" -- with the tediously monotonous action flick "Bangkok Dangerous."

Actually, describing it as having "action" is charitable. There are indeed shootouts and chases. After all, Cage plays an assassin -- that's all part of his gig. But twin Hong Kong directors Danny and Oxide Pang don't bring a whole lot of life to this story of killing that, shockingly, wasn't screened for critics before opening day.

In remaking their own 1999 movie of the same name, the Pang brothers have smothered everything in a layer of greenish-gray grit, making even the rare daytime shots look like they're taking place in the dead of night. It's a shame, too, because the Pangs have shown a flair for deeply creepy fare with their 2002 horror movie "The Eye," which also was remade this year with Jessica Alba as its star.

With "Bangkok Dangerous," Cage's hangdog demeanor and constant constipated expression don't do much to engage us. He stars as a hit man named Joe -- get it? Like he's your average Joe, like you could be an assassin, too, if you were to explore your darker impulses. Edgy stuff there.

The script from Jason Richman ("Swing Vote") finds Joe performing that hackneyed one last job when a Bangkok crime boss hires him to take out four enemies. Only, wouldn't you know it? The bad guy turns out not to be as trustworthy as Joe initially thought.

Thankfully, Joe is a creative sort (the drowning in a hotel pool is clever, both in its execution and in the way the scene is shot and edited). But he also finds time to mentor a young pickpocket (Shahkrit Yamnarm) he's hired as his assistant, turning "Bangkok Dangerous" into a deadly version of "The Karate Kid."

And, in a contrived subplot, Joe squeezes in some awkward romance with a pretty, perky deaf pharmacist (Charlie Young). The scene in which he sits down for tea with the young woman, who cannot speak, and her grandmother, who speaks little English, is especially painful to watch.

Sure, Joe shows some yearnings for companionship: "I sleep alone. I eat alone," he drones in an opening voiceover. But he's such a drag, the idea that anyone would be even vaguely interested in him is truly baffling. And just because he's sporting a dark, shaggy 'do that makes him look like Gene Simmons, that's not exactly cause for chicks to dig him.

"Bangkok Dangerous," a Lionsgate release, is rated R for violence, language and some sexuality. Running time: 100 minutes. One and a half stars out of four.

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