‘Canned and recycled’

If action is what you seek, then action is what you’ll get … and nothing else

BAD HAIR YEAR<br>“It’s OK, Nicolas, you’ll always have <i>Leaving Las Vegas</i>.”

“It’s OK, Nicolas, you’ll always have Leaving Las Vegas.”

Bangkok Dangerous
Starring Nicolas Cage. Directed by the Pang brothers. Rated R.
Rated 2.0

What the heck has happened with Nicolas Cage? What’s so great about the Pang brothers anyway? Is Bangkok “dangerous” in this movie, or just degraded and defiled? Is this a case of the Asian action genre strangling on its own clichés?

Side issues and afterthoughts like that are about all you can take away from this shambles of an action movie from Thai filmmakers and an American star working in an international setting (Prague briefly, but mostly Bangkok). An early warning came in the form of the producers’ withholding Bangkok Dangerous from advance screenings for big-city newspaper reviewers, but there was just enough buzz and hype preceding this movie’s release to raise hopes of a certain cultish sort.

With Cage, such hopes may have been raised only among those who can remember him from Wild at Heart, Red Rock West, Leaving Las Vegas (for which he won an Oscar) and Adaptation. But if you know him chiefly by his recent track record in big-budget action thrillers, then maybe there’s little surprise at all with his dismally trite performance here.

Cage at least has those earlier films to his credit. The brothers Pang (Danny and Oxide), in contrast, have built up a considerable filmography in the last decade, beginning with the Thai-language version of Bangkok Dangerous in 1999. But nothing of theirs that I have been able to see in these parts has really lived up to the hype. And this film leaves them looking like little more than mindless technicians, clever fellows who have the formulaic tricks of the souped-up action movie down pat, but who have very little feeling for the basics of real storytelling, let alone such apparently arcane matters as character and emotion.

Cage’s character, a lone-wolf assassin drifting toward a not-very-convincing moral awakening, is even less credible in the occasional moments of hackneyed tender emotion than he is in his guises of glumly wise warrior and, more frequently, cold-eyed killing machine. And Jason Richman’s screenplay is little more than a canned recycling of the viciously delusional sentimentality that seems to plague the contemporary action movie in general.