The Pang Brothers are not good filmmakers. In any sense of the two words that comprise that single word, film and makers. They are not even mediocre filmmakers, so it was a little surprising to see some mediocre elements in their remade version of Bangkok Dangerous. Which in fact is a little derivative of a much better Hong Kong action film called Running Out of Time by the far more prolific and competent director Tsui Hark.
In Dangerous Nicholas Cage plays an emotionally exhausted and depressive hitman. He takes heroin to relieve the pain that murder and loneliness has left him with, maybe he should just stop killing people(?) And he’s on his final assignment (as most movie hitmen are), he follows a set of rules that he breaks (as most movie hitmen are prone to do), he takes on a student (like most movie hitmen) and he falls in love when he knows he shouldn’t (as most blah, blah, blah…)
The biggest flaw with the film is the end. The Pang Brothers obviously knew how they wanted it to finish and tried to build everything backwards. Not a bad way to do it, they just don’t know how. They want the lead to be charismatic, but in order for Cage to make the final moment at all logical he also has to play deeply depressed. The two ideas butt heads. It’s like watching water and oil trying to blend for two hours. So when we get to the final moment, there’s nothing honest, genuine or effective about it. It was a complete misstep to force this moment into the story and onto the audience.
Most parts of the film are so poorly executed that when you get to something interesting it’s really interesting. And you’re like, that was really cool. Until 4 seconds later you realize that that really cool moment made no sense what-so-ever. For instance: Cage has to chase one of his targets down in a set of boats that serisouly move about 15 miles per hour – top speed. It’s the most pathetic chase sequence ever put to film. But then Cage gets his man. Fires some bullets into him. The Pang Brothers cut under water and we see the bullets cut through the bottom of the boat and into the water in this nifty pattern, which blood then seeps through into the murk below. Cool, right? But wait, for that to happen it would have meant that Cage had fired his gun all over the place from 8 different angles – not a very precise hitman.
Then there’s another part in a park following a lovely moment between Cage and his love interest. A moment that’s genuinly charming. And it leads to a moment that’s really quite interesting and kind of scary. But once it’s done you wonder where these two guys suddenly came from and what they wanted. It’s never dealt with. The film keeps under cutting it’s own uniqueness with sheer stupidity. And the excessive use of camera movement and character movement is silly. Did I mention the bad guys stand dumbly in open windows like bad guys in video games waiting for you to shoot them…it’s ridiculous!!!
Nicholas Cage finds a little time to act amidst being lit in really cool ways with harsh light and shadows. You see the heartless hitman open up and you kind of start to care for him. The ending is that much worse because of it. Actually, now that I think of it, the end was completely derivative of a Japanese film by director Takeshi Kitano. A hitman movie called Sonatine, with a similar ending that’s far more poetic and potent.