The Direct to Video Connoisseur

I'm a huge fan of action, horror, sci-fi, and comedy, especially of the Direct to Video variety. In this blog I review some of my favorites and not so favorites, and encourage people to comment and add to the discussion. If you click on an image, it will take you to that post's image page, which includes many more pics from the film and other goodies I couldn't fit in the actual review. For announcements and updates, don't forget to Follow us on Twitter and Like our Facebook page. If you're the director, producer, distributor, etc. of a low-budget feature length film and you'd like to send me a copy to review, you can contact me at dtvconnoisseur[at]yahoo.com. I'd love to check out what you got.

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--Matt

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

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As we continue in our series of exploring box office bombs, our next film is Bangkok Dangerous. It's probably no secret that I've been waiting to get my hands on a Nicolas Cage film. It's nothing personal against him, I just feel like his movies, like National Treasure or The Family Man, can be so soul sucking, yet so many people come to me and say "did you see National Treasure? It was so good!", and I die a little bit inside.

Bangkok Dangerous is a bigger budget, Hollywood produced, Nicolas Cage starring version of a movie made by Hong Kong directors the Pang Brothers. It follows the exploits of Cage, an assassin, sent to Bangkok to do four jobs. While there, though, he starts to lose his hard edge, falls in love with a deaf woman who works at a nearby pharmacy, and decides to train the kid who's been working for him as his messenger. As we all know, though, a hit man who loses his edge is not long for this world, and Cage has to make peace with the deeds he's done and try to make amends before it's all over.

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I really wasn't expecting this, but for the second week in a row, I actually like the box office bomb. Now, don't get me wrong, there was plenty that didn't work: Cage's voice-over narration, Cage as a cold-blooded assassin, and Cage with that haircut. But I can't fault Cage for going out of his element and trying this picture, or for putting his name behind a project intended to get the word out about two up-and-coming directors from Hong Kong. The story was slightly flawed, in that I couldn't reconcile the cold-blooded assassin with the human being awkwardly taking a deaf woman out on a date, or teaching his messenger how to be an assassin too; and maybe that was the point, but it just didn't work organically for me. That being said, the action was very stylized, and Bangkok as a setting was perfect for a movie like that. It had a modern Old West feel to it.

When the movie began, and Cage was doing his silly voice-overs, I thought "oh, I'm going to enjoy this. It'll be like taking candy from a baby." Throw in the hairdo, and over-the-top cold-blooded assassin routine, and this looked like a slam dunk. But then there's the scene where Cage goes to the pharmacy to care for a wound on his shoulder. Suddenly, there was the guy we loved in Moonstruck, the guy we wanted to see in Wild at Heart, the guy that won an Oscar in Leaving Lost Vegas. Out of all the films to allow him to use his range, it was Bangkok Dangerous. The problem was, perhaps he was too good in the scenes with the deaf woman. Maybe he needed to infuse some of that awkwardness into his role as the cold blooded hit man. What we forget is, he has the chops to pull off John Cusack's character in Gross Pointe Blank.

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But we forget that because he's let us forget that. Next, Knowing, Ghost Rider, National Treasures 1 and 2, The Family Man, The Weather Man, The Wicker Man... should I continue? When I watched the making of featurette, and he discussed wanting to go outside his element and do something he doesn't normally do, with directors he doesn't normally work with, in a country he's never been to, and in a genre he's never worked in (unless you count Face/Off, but I don't), I can see why he needed a break from all that other crap. I really want to see what the new Bad Lieutenant film, directed by Werner Herzog, is like. Bangkok Dangerous had glimpses of what made Cage great, and at the very least, reminded me that I shouldn't completely write him off.

I'm not completely familiar with the world of Hong Kong cinema, nor am I that familiar with the work of the Pang Brothers. Their only other major release in the US was The Messengers, and Bangkok Dangerous was definitely better than that. This movie definitely had elements of John Woo's better work, like Hard Boiled, which Cage said was something that interested him about this project. I also saw a lot of Cage's character based on one of my favorites: Le samourai. Where the French film was better, though, was the main character was better-- more natural. This movie shouldn't have tried to remake the lead in Le samourai, it should've replayed on Cage's strengths as an actor, which we saw in full display in his scenes with the deaf woman. Here's where Bangkok Dangerous ultimately fails for me, because it's not original enough, and where it is original, with Cage, it doesn't make as great a use of that as it should.

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I haven't seen the original Bangkok Dangerous, but from what I understood, the main character was deaf, not the woman he meets. I have it in my queue and want to see it, but I wonder if that element would've made it enough of a departure from it's forerunners to make it original for me. How many times have we seen the cold-blooded assassin with his rules and his attention to details? I get that the action is really where I'm supposed to go in this film for the excitement, and I found that part fun, but I could get that out of any movie. I also wonder if the original had the horrible voice-overs. I hope not. They were silly and useless, and actually made for lazy storytelling. Everything the voice-overs told us we would've found out in a much more subtle and interesting way just by watching the movie and having it revealed to us organically.

Wow, we're already at the eighth paragraph. Usually I'm scratching to find things to write about, and here I'm running out of room-- and we're just talking about a Nicolas Cage film! Again, this isn't great, but it's not as bad as it seems at first blush. If you can survive the early Cage voice-overs and whatnot, you'll be treated to some scenes that are real vintage Cage, and remind you of why you liked him in the first place.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0814022/

3 comments:

  1. What goes through Cage's head when he says "sure Ill do that movie?"

    That Wicker Man movie was the worst film I saw that year, Ghost Rider was beyond bad...

    I just gave up on Cage, havent seen on of his National Treasures, or Bangkok Dangerous, or anything else his done, except for Knowing, which everyone kept on recommending me.

    Im looking forward to The Bad Lieutenant as well, I only wonder if it will live up to Abel Ferrara's original Bad Lieutenant. That movie is electrifying. Harvey Keitels best performance ever. He is the worst human being on the planet in that one! I doubt this new film will have the guts that the original had. The original was so edgy, that it didnt get most exposition simply cause it was so graphic. Highly recommend it!

    I trust Werner Herzog, his one of the greats for me. Lets see if they pull it off.

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  2. Already ahead of you on the Bad Lieutenant http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2008/08/bad-lieutenant-1992.html

    It's almost like I can read your mind, huh?

    I only saw the first National Treasure, and what angered me the most about it was how smart it thought it was, when it was dumber than all get out. The female lead, though, is Diane Kruger, who you may remember from Inglourious Basterds as the German actress.

    I have one Herzog film on here, Cobra Verde: http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2007/09/cobra-verde-1987.html

    I also have another Ferrara film, New Rose Motel, which wasn't as good Bad Lieutenant: http://www.mattmovieguy.com/2008/09/new-rose-motel-1998.html

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  3. Yeah, I saw Cobra Verde a while back, great movie. It still amazes me how Herzog got all those extras to act in unison during those battle training sequences.

    And of course, Kinsky gave a demented performance, like he always does.

    Havent seen New Rose Hotel, Ill check out that review you wrote for it, and Im seeing it now for sure! Ferrara has a knack for shocking audiences, love that about the guy.

    His other film I did manage to see and LOVE was King of New York with Christopher Walken. Another film about a doomed character. Highly recommend it as well.

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