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.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

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As we wind down our DTVC Wild Card series on Hong Kong cinema, people probably see Bangkok Dangerous and think "dude, that's a Thai film!" In theory, yes, it takes place in Thailand and is in the Thai language; but directed by the Pang brothers, it has all the feel of a Hong Kong film circa late 80s early 90s John Woo. That makes sense considering they grew up in Hong Kong in the 70s and 80s, and Bangkok Dangerous to me represents that next link in the chain in the evolution of the genre.

Bangkok Dangerous is about Kong, a deaf mute working as a hitman in Bangkok. After doing a job in Hong Kong and eating something bad, he meets a really cute girl at the local pharmacy in his neighborhood, and she takes a shine to him. At the same time, his mentor's girlfriend is raped, and when the mentor kills the guy who did it, he pisses off their boss, because her attacker didn't have a chance to pay the boss for a job Kong did. Now Kong has to choose between redemption with the pharmacist girl or avenging his mentor.

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This is a great film, and different in many ways from the Nicolas Cage version. First, it's the assassin who's deaf, not the girl at the pharmacy. Second, and perhaps more importantly, there's none of the horrible voice overs the Cage one had. Finally, there was none of that clunky element where Cage had to recruit someone locally to help him do his jobs. Here we just had Kong doing his thing. I do think the Cage one worked, especially because of the performance he turned in, but it was nowhere near as good as this one.

And in terms of Hong Kong cinema, this takes the foundation set down by Woo, and adds more depth to it. It really is The Killer redux, only with the assassin having the disability, but still wanting redemption for the people he's killed through the love of a woman he's just met. What's interesting here is that Kong's brutal occupation doesn't really affect his girl's life until they're attacked by muggers and he takes them out, scaring her off; while Chow Yun-Fat's girl is actually blinded by being in the wrong place at the wrong time during one of his hits. He has to hide the fact that all her pain and suffering is because of him, as opposed to Kong, who has to keep his job a secret because his relationship with the woman he loves would disappear once she found out the truth about what he does.

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And that woman, named Fon, is a total hottie. You can see why Kong would give up his job for her. Her real name is Premsinee Ratanasopha, and she has only one other film to her credit, Zee-Oui. As in all American films, we're left wondering how she was single in the first place. In Hollywood, as in Bangkok, hotties are ripe for the picking at local pharmacies, just waiting for our hero to show up and sweep them off their feet-- or something slightly more awkward, which we got here. Looks wise, and acting wise, I'm surprised she hasn't been in more, or that Hollywood hasn't tracked her down. She didn't even make it into the Hollywood version of this, which was shot in Thailand.

There have been a lot of 90s American action films shot in Thailand, and though Bangkok Dangerous is on a different level from those, it seems like they all used Bangkok in the same way. When you hear the Pang brothers talk about it, they make it sound like Bangkok offers things that other cities don't-- an almost Old West feel-- but really all they use are a bunch of dingy apartments, gambling houses, brothels, and strip clubs. Really this could be Manila or something just as easily, the way Vancouver passes for Seattle, or Toronto and Montreal for New York.

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The subway system in Hong Kong looks pretty sweet, if the scenes in the movie are an accurate depiction. Like many others (Boston's T for instance), there's a system map along the inside top, letting people know how many stops to the next one. What they also have is a series of lights under the names of each stop on the map, that lights up as the train pulls into them. How cool is that? Plus they were so clean on the inside. I love the T, and can't image they could come up with the cash to get all new trains so they'd look like their Hong Kong counterparts, but maybe it's something for them to shoot for.

You can get this one right now on Netflix Watch Instantly, so that's a pretty good bet. The Nicolas Cage version has to be rented on DVD. If you want to compare my reviews, you can click here. I think you'll find the original is much better.

For more info: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0263101/

7 comments:

  1. I've been wanting to check out the original for a while. Good review.

    I hope you don't stop posting reviews Matt, there are plenty more bad action movies that need reviewing out there!

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  2. Totally agree with your review! The original is better! The Nicolas Cage remake had too many flaws...the trailer made the film look like old-school action though.

    Also agree with Sutekh, hope you keep you posting reviews!

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  3. I'm just taking a week off and looking at where things stand. There definitely are plenty more bad action movies out there, but at least you two both have great sites too that will keep fighting the good fight no matter what I end up doing. The initial plan right now is to come back from the week off and just post like once a week or so-- I doubt I'll ever stop doing this for good.

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  4. That's good to hear! I understand totally how hard it can be to find time to post. I wanted to post every second day then realised that every third was more reasonable - but then I had to work basically solidly from Thursday through to Sunday so I haven't updated in nearly a week.

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  5. That's something that happens with a new blog like yours, where you're experimenting with how long, how much time to spend, etc., and also trying to figure out how to fit it into your life. For me it's not as much finding time (though that can be an issue still after over three years), as much as finding the energy to do one post a week right now, let alone the four I'd been doing.

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  6. Sorry to hear about the burnout, Matt. Your site has been a constant source of entertainment and good movie picks for me. But we all get a little tired once in awhile; hope you keep the site up even if the posting schedule is greatly reduced. As for Bangkok Dangerous, it really points the way, as you said, for the evolution of the type of cinema HK was known for in the 80s and early 90s. Great review. Regardin Riki Oh, I used to love Doritos and Mountain Dew for supper in my early 20s, but it can get quite tiring ;)

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  7. It's been years since I did Mountain Dew and Doritos for supper too, perhaps my early 20s as well. I don't know that I could handle it now.

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