Bangkok Dangerous (2008)

Rated: R for violence, language, and some sexuality.
Length: 100 minutes
Grade: DDDC=D
Budget: $45 million
Box Office: $39 million (15 U.S., 24 Intl.)

Written by: The Pang Brothers and Jason Richman (Swing Vote, Bad Company)
Directed by: The Pang Brothers (Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang) (Very popular Asian directors who made the original Bangkok Dangerous in 1999)
Starring: Nicholas Cage, Charlie Young, and Shahkrit Yamnarm.

When a hitman finally decides to quit the profession, he opts for one final set of high-paying jobs in Bangkok. But everything starts to go another way when he befriends and mentors his disposable gofer, falls in love with a deaf local, and realizes one of the targets is a virtuous politician rather than the bad guys he normally kills.

Entertainment Value: D
So disappointing. The box office doesn’t lie on this one. This is definitely an Asian film rather than an American one, and I don’t mean that as a compliment. On the one hand, the movie doesn’t give you enough to like about Cage’s character so that you can root for him, but it also doesn’t give you a way to hate him enough to root against him. So you watch this without enjoying any of it. What do I want to happen in this movie? I have no idea, but whatever it was, it didn’t actually happen. What was a moderately plausible action movie most of the way really stank in the last twenty minutes right through to the highly unsatisfying ending. Even the alternate was lame.

Superficial Content: D
Drugs/Alcohol D, Sex/Nudity D+, Violence D, Language D, Illegality F
The movie is about drugs and gang wars and assassination and strip clubs. In every category except outright illegality, it’s not as bad as many other worse examples, hence the Ds, but this is certainly R rated and rightly so.

Significant Content: D
Even hitman can have a conscience. It’s okay to kill people for money so long as you only kill bad people. Violence is a disease that eventually claims everyone who employs it, or “Live by the Glock, die by the Glock.”

Artistic/Thought Value: C
More for the style of the movie, which is consistent, dark, and un-American. I can’t remember if I’ve seen the original, but there are several scenes in this one that certainly felt like homages to a previous work, by which I mean to say that they felt out of place, awkward, and weak in the context of this effort. The only real thought value here involves the question of ethics regarding assassination targets and methods, although if you’re really looking hard, you might also ask questions about how mid-level sinners can be enticed into both greater sin and greater personal loss by a high-level sinner.

Discussion Questions:
~Why does Kong go with Joe initially, stay with him, and want to be like him?
~The takeaway is a very effective strategy which all manipulators understand. How does Joe use the takeaway to manipulate Kong? What strategies does Christ give us to avoid being manipulated by our desires and the takeaway?
~This movie seems to use nudity/sex at times when it is unexpected and then refrains from using it at other times when it would be more expected (like in the strip clubs). Why? Is there meant to be some message in this?
~What does the elephant symbolize to Joe? To the filmmakers? Is this an effective use of symbolism?
~Why does Fon initially find Joe appealing? Why does Joe find Fon appealing? Why does she leave him, and what do you think of her decision? Is she a symbol of grace in the movie?
~Why does Joe give us his rules for assassining? Is it surprising that he breaks them by the end? ~Would he have been better off following them? What should we do when rules conflict with our sense of humanity and decency?

Overall Grade: D
For disappointing. Nicholas Cage has now officially been moved from my “I usually like his stuff” list to my “sometimes yes, sometimes no” list. One question for me still lingers here: Why was it important that Cage’s character look like Gene Simmons in order to be an assassin?

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