With the Pang Brothers, Danny and Oxide, set to redirect their own movie, this time in Hollywood with Nicholas Cage in the lead in ‘Bangkok Dangerous’, I figured I should see the nine-year old original before I traverse to multi-plex to check out the re-visitation. However after seeing the original movie and from what I can tell from the trailers of the new Nicholas Cage vehicle, it would seem that the only thing that the original and this new movie have in common is the title and the twin brothers directing.
Thailand is a tough country, and Bangkok with its bars and seedy night life is a tough city in a tough country. In this tough city lurks the death mute Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) who is a hitman for hire and treats his job with same nonchalance as a waiter or a garbage man treats theirs. And it looks like he gets about the same wages as a waiter or a garbage man since he lives in like the scraggiest dump this side of Hell’s Kitchen.
Regardless of his living conditions, Kong seems fairly content with his life as he lives with his best friend and roommate Joe (Pisek Intrakanchit), who we learn through flashbacks took the deaf mute janitor he met at a gun range under his wing, taught him the ways of the gun, how to fight and protect himself and inserted him into the family business. Unfortunately for Joe through, during a job gone terribly wrong he caught a bullet in his shooting hand which effectively ended his career, and since Joe obviously defined himself through his ability to kill he has been a ball of depression ever since. He even went so far as to kick his beloved girlfriend Aom (Patharwarin Timkul) to the curb, which continuously breaks the poor woman’s heart.
Anyway, Kong is doing a fine job holding down the fort, flawlessly executing execution after execution, but things get complicated for Kong when he meets the beautiful pharmacy assistant Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha) who seems to genuinely care for him
Joe has his own tribulations when his ex girlfriend is brutally raped by a mobster, causing Joe to realize he does possess a completely functioning left hand that can competently hold a gun, and handles his business accordingly. As for Kong, his relationship with Fon is irreparably altered when a pair of thugs foolishly tries to rob he and Fon during a date, and with Kong unable to control his instincts he reveals to the woman he loves what he really is, and that’s not the gas station attendant that she thought him to be. Joe also discovers that the joy he felt killing in this mobster will be short lived as his actions carries with it some rather dire consequences. It all comes to ahead for Kong after he does one last job with the ramifications of said job changing his view on his life, and also seeks revenge for his best friend, all while saddled with the stark realization of what he is and the reality that he cannot change it.
Far more a character study than an action film I found ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ to be uniformly excellent. Considering that this is a film with very little dialog and a sparse amount of action scenes, the Pang Brothers faced a daunting task attempting to tell a compelling story while tying one arm behind their back from the start by taking away their main characters ability to speak. For the most part they were very successful in doing so, obviously, which is one of they reasons they are now in Malibu sucking up big time Hollywood dollars.
Pawalit Mongkolpisit does a very credible job as the deaf mute Kong and the story that is wrapped around the character, mostly shown through flashbacks, give a solid understanding of his complete nonchalant disregard towards human life, which also makes his relationship with the character of Fon all the more powerful. All of the principle actors merged perfectly with the gritty, dirty, tough atmosphere that permeated throughout the film. Except of course Premsinee Ratansopha’s Fon who is the fairly derivative pure virginal character, dressed in white no less, that we tend to see in various Asian films of this type though the actress largely through her beauty, youth and expressive eyes rises above the core limitations of her character and also delivers a solid performance.
The action sequences in the film, though sparse, were effective and violent which did heighten their effectiveness but as is common to crime dramas in this genre, as the film came to a close it did tend to gravitate towards the overly melodramatic.
It will be interesting to see what the Pang Brothers do with their American redo of this movie as their careers to this point has been an interesting one. They followed this film with widely recognized cult classic ‘The Eye’ and then later Danny Oxide would direct all by himself the truly tiresome ‘Forest of Death’ and then to reunite with his brother for their first American feature in ‘The Messengers’ which inexplicably was worse than ‘Forest of Death’. This doesn’t give me the highest of hopes that the new version of ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ will be quality entertainment, though I will watch it anyway. This original however was a helluva movie, low key in presentation yet a deceptively complex little action thriller with a lot offer.