September 5, 2008

Stylish Yet Predictable


(18, 98 mins) Thriller/Action/Romance. Nicolas Cage, Shahkrit Yamnarm, Charlie Young, Nirattisai Kaljareuk, Panward Hemmanee, Dom Hetrakul, Namngen Jaruvijit. Directors: Oxide Pang, Danny Pang. *****

YOU can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear, not that it has stopped brothers Oxide and Danny Pang. Nine years after they dazzled audiences with the stylish yet predictable thriller Bangkok Dangerous, the Hong Kong filmmakers direct an English language remake.

The screenplay is no longer theirs. Instead, Jason Richman, who penned the disagreeable Anthony Hopkins-Chris Rock buddy movie Bad Company, brings a westerner's eye to this tale of a hit man's final hurrah in the Thai capital.

The deaf mute anti-hero of the original film is replaced by a morose, straggly-haired Nicolas Cage, whose opening voiceover monologue reveals: "The work's steady but it's not for everyone."

Nor has the Pang brothers' film got the same flaws which afflicted the 1999 version. The impeccable credentials of marksman Joe London (Cage) are established in a nervy prologue set in night time Prague.

From here, Joe flies to "corrupt, dirty and dense" Bangkok at the behest of crime boss Surat (Kaljareuk) to assassinate four gangland and political enemies, including the Minister of the Interior.

The American assassin hires pickpocket Kong (Yamnarm) as an errand boy, intending to kill the punk once the contract is complete.

However, the usually cold and aloof Joe forges an emotional bond with Kong - "I know this sounds strange but when I looked into his eyes, I saw myself" - and reluctantly embraces the role of mentor.

Just as Joe begins to let his emotional guard down, even falling in love with deaf mute pharmacist Fon (Young), the hit man discovers Surat intends to double-cross him. A centrepiece chase on long- tailed wooden boats then a motorcycle, through the spectacular Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, feels sluggish, but does end with a neat underwater shot of the assassination, bullets scything through the bottom of the boat and into the riverbed.


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