First Look Pictures // 2000 // 105 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // September 5th, 2008
A dangerous man in a dangerous place.
I need to go grab some pain reliever. Back in a minute.
Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit, The Elephant King) may be deaf and dumb, but he is most assuredly not a guy you want to mess with. Kong is a professional hitman, and he is very good at his job. He never misses a target, he performs his tasks with ruthless efficiency. He walks through the seedy underbelly of Bangkok, which as the title so subtly implies, is dangerous. He could be killed, but he doesn't seem to care. Kong doesn't care about much of anything...until he meets a beautiful girl (Premsinee Ratanasopha) who treats him with tenderness and affection? Does she represent a new beginning, or just the beginning of the end?
Bangkok Dangerous ought to be more interesting than it is. It was written and directed by The Pang Brothers (Oxide and Danny), who are probably best-known at the moment for the 2002 horror flick The Eye. That film was recently remade as an American film starring Jessica Alba, and now Bangkok Dangerous is getting the big-budget American remake treatment. Unusually, the new version is also being directed by The Pang Brothers. I'm quite curious to see how it stacks up to the original. This is one of those rare cases where a movie remake actually has a whole lot of potential areas in which it could greatly improve on the original.
Bangkok Dangerous is nothing if not experimental. I like to think of it as an experimental nothing. The Pang Brothers pull out every single visual trick they can possibly think of. We get weird coloring, fuzzy black-and-white footage, grainy old home video footage, security camera visuals, bizarre camera angles, odd filters, slow-motion, fast-motion, rewinding, fast-forwarding, SUPER EXTREME CLOSE-UPS, a lizard, and the kitchen sink. You may imagine that it looks something like a crazy John Woo flick, or maybe Natural Born Killers. It should, but it doesn't. Instead, it looks like something you or I crafted on a home PC (unless you are Mr. Spielberg, in which case I apologize and request your autograph).
I recognize that this film probably didn't have a big budget, so obviously The Pang Brothers didn't have the luxury of being able to hire top-drawer tech guys to help them with their visual doodlings. Still, I've seen plenty of crazy low-budget movies that look far better and more professional than this one. Heck, Werner Herzog made Aguirre, The Wrath of God for less than half a million bucks. Yes, I realize it's mean to ask anyone to be as talented as Werner Herzog, but you know what I'm saying.
The film quickly moves into a fairly repetitive rhythm. Kong has a flashback about his terrible childhood (kids throw rocks at him and call him names that he imagines are quite offensive). Kong uses these memories to help commit some terribly violent act against another human being. Kong meditates for a while. Kong visits some sort of dance club and sits in a daze while unbearably noisy techno music plays. Kong shares a quiet moment with a girl that he kind of likes. These scenes are repeated over and over, neatly divided with various dollops of visual leakage.
Bangkok Dangerous is billed as a wild and crazy action movie, but the hyperactive look of everything may lead you to think there is more action than there actually is. Pole dancers swinging around to thumping music while the screen changes colors doesn't count as an action scene (though I suppose it could easily turn into a different sort of action scene, wink-wink-nudge-nudge-say-no-more). If the visuals aren't making you soil yourself quite as much as The Pang Brothers hope, you may actually discover that Bangkok Dangerous is pretty dull and uneventful. There are way too many scenes in which nothing at all happens. Don't get me wrong, I love quiet and introspective movies as much as anyone. I'm a big fan of Bergman and Tarkovsky. This movie isn't quiet and introspective; just slow and...ahhh...zzzz. When it's not dull, it's occasionally a bit troublesome. A bizarre rape sequence is handled in a pretty tasteless manner, as is a scene in which someone shoots a dead man in the crotch. Don't even get me started on the plot. After a while, it gets pretty difficult to remember why anyone is doing anything, aside from the fact that Kong kills people because he was mistreated as a kid.
You know what this movie needs? It needs crappy, incoherent, extremely noisy English-language narration lathered all over everything. Honestly, as experimental as the movie is, it wouldn't feel out of place. I would prefer a maniacal monster truck announcer of some sort. "Hahahaha...witness the scenes of the dancing Godzilla toy! It...is...blowing...your...mind! Now starting...gunshot number seventeen! Four men dead! Hahahaha!" I'm grasping at straws, as you can tell. Really, just about anything would improve this film a little bit. Oh, except for one thing: Nicolas Cage sporting really bad hair. Whatever happens, do not let Nicolas Cage anywhere near this material. What's that? Oh. Well, bugger.
The transfer is pretty crummy. Of course there's a lot of footage that is intentionally in bad shape (very much in the vein of the recent Grindhouse), but the stuff that is actually supposed to look good looks poor. Flesh tones are off, black are not deep at all, and the darker scenes are typically unpleasant to look it. It's quite difficult to tell what's going on. Sound is okay, but very uneven. I had to adjust the volume several times due to fluctuating music volume. Still, I must admit that a couple of interesting things are done with the audio here. Did you think that sequence in the nightclub in Babel was a neat idea? Bet they got it here.
I dislike Bangkok Dangerous. It's a bad movie, but not entertainingly bad enough to provide camp value. The film seems to think that it's quite something, and desperately wants to be Hard Boiled, Pulp Fiction, and The Matrix all rolled into one. It isn't anywhere near one of those films in terms of quality. It's not the sort of painfully bad film that you wish you could erase from your mind; it's just a nuisance that kind of gets on your nerves while you watch it. Ouch! Shoo, get off me. Where's my fly swatter?
Guilty. *swat* *bzzzz* *swat* *swat* *silence*
Review content copyright © 2008 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: First Look Pictures
* 1.85:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 105 Minutes
Release Year: 2000
MPAA Rating: Rated R