My Buddy is a Cage – Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Following up yesterday’s surprisingly enjoyable Face/Off comes the Pang Brothers’ Bangkok Dangerous. Who wants to talk about Nic Cage’s hairline?

Hired gun “Joe” (Nicolas Cage) travels to Thailand for a final series of hits before hanging it all up. While there, he takes a street punk, Kong (Shakrit Yamnarm), under his wing, as well as romances, Fon (Charlie Yeung), a deaf pharmacist. And that’s about it.

So there is a plot to Bangkok Dangerous, but just barely. The first 60 minutes juggle Joe picking off various loathsome figures from Thailand’s seedy underbelly, training montages with Kong ala Karate Kid (but probably the third one), and the worst of all, terribly uncomfortable moments where Cage plays the world’s worst pick up artist. The real conflict though is when Joe, predictably, reconsiders his profession as an assassin, and yes, starts to change his ways. It isn’t that easy, but it is that boring.

Nothing here engages or excites. It certainly doesn’t innovate, and that’s impressive considering how much Bangkok Dangerous really tries to do. It’s a Frankenstein’s monster of tonal shifts, mixing gritty, darkly-lit alleyway chases with date nights and combat training. This is apparently a Hollywood remake of the Pang Brothers’ Thai release of the same name in 1999. Though I wonder if the original was more focused, I don’t wonder about the motivations behind doing it again. *cash register sounds*

I’ve also got a strong suspicion Nic Cage is in this for similar reasons, as 2008 is roughly around the time when he starts piling on the paycheck roles. Cage’s “Joe” is neither hammy nor interesting. He’s filler, and nothing more. The real standout in this is his hairline, which is all sorts of whacked out. If Face/Off proved anything, it was that “less” doesn’t always mean “better.” The over-the-top acting and ridiculous concept for a revenge actioner all congealed together. Bangkok Dangerous‘ skeleton of a story and questionable characterization could’ve used some attention. It may have helped prevent the film from constantly tripping over itself in its drunken stupor to dazzle and satisfy on all levels. Because what does an audience gain if it’s told when a double cross is coming, especially when that betrayal is at the hands of two-dimensional characters? 

Unless it’s Nic Cage hair. Then less is always more.

Joe’s four assassin “rules” that function as narrated bookends seem intended to explore ideas about guilt and consequence. Unfortunately, the ideas don’t invert or reflect off of each other; Joe’s narration is simply another obvious action beat in a sea of banality. In hindsight however, a few of his lines impart some wisdom to us: “Know when to get out. Just thinking about it means it’s time.”

90 minutes later, and I couldn’t agree more.

Once again, I’m taking suggestions for next week. Be merciful.

* * * * *

Want more Cage? You got it.


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