“Bangkok Dangerous”
Lionsgate
At Quality 16 & Showcase Cinemas
1.5 out of 5 stars

Lionsgate
Imagine if he actually used crack.

Even if you haven’t seen “Bangkok Dangerous,” there’s a pretty good chance that you’ve already seen something a lot like it.

Danny and Oxide Pang’s remake of their own 1999 Thai action flick, “Bangkok Dangerous,” is the ultimate generic action movie. Nicolas Cage (“National Treasure”) plays Joe, a professional assassin sent to Bangkok to complete one final, career-defining job. Cage strays away from the twin brother and flaming motorcycle that accessorized his previous onscreen roles. Instead, viewers find his noticeable receding hairline at the crux of the Oscar-nominee’s part. Like in his other recent roles, his new hairstyle becomes one of the many funny elements throughout the film.

“Bangkok Dangerous” begins with a vague familiarity. The opening scene is a lot like the beginning of “Wanted,” another assassin film released earlier this year. A bad guy vs. assassin scene starts, assassin perched furtively atop a city building, gun pointed at the forehead of the bad guy sitting in an adjacent office building. We soon learn that this assassination attempt is the first of his four assigned “hits” in the dirty and dense city of Bangkok. Consistent with the traditional hit man code held by most of Hollywood’s baddest assassins, Joe also follows the “don’t ask questions” and “know when to get out” rules along the way. Not exactly the most original stuff.

As the movie progresses, though, the film is taken slightly off the beaten path of the typical action movie plot as Joe finds companionship in an unlikely trio: a local young adult, a deaf pharmacy worker and an elephant. Joe first meets Kong (Shakrit Yamnarm), a local whom he hires as his messenger after witnessing his crafty pickpocketing skills. Their trust inexplicably leads to Kong quickly becoming Joe’s partner-in-crime after this chance meeting.

He then encounters another accomplice after a motorcycle pursuit of his next target, stopping by a pharmacy to treat a large, mysterious cut on his shoulder. But herein lies just another problem with the film: Joe now has an unexplained gash on his arm without a serious collision. Maybe more original than other films in the genre, but just not logical.

At the pharmacy, Joe meets his Hollywood-style soul mate, predictably falling in love at first sight with Fon (played by Taiwanese actress Charlie Yeung), a deaf pharmacy assistant.

Finally, Joe and Fon are shown petting an elephant on the streets of Bangkok, marking the beginning of the movie’s elephant motif, seeking — but failing — to convey emotion. Kong also comments later on an elephant picture hanging on a wall in Joe’s house, a picture shown repeatedly throughout the film. The elephant trunk pointing down in the picture, Kong informs Joe, is bad luck. Perhaps the Thai mammals can be understood as the “danger” in the title’s “Bangkok Dangerous,” but it’s quite a stretch.

This is precisely why the movie offers viewers so little: Even in straying from the characteristic action plot, the movie simply cannot be taken seriously. From training sessions between Joe and Kong in which their practice fighting consists solely of flirtatious hand gestures, to scenes showing Joe and Fon lovingly holding hands while simultaneously stroking the trunk of an elephant, viewers are ultimately left to wonder whether they should cover their eyes and let Joe and his new friends have some alone time.

Consistent with the rest of the movie, the ending is as predictable as a Jerry Bruckheimer production. Joe temporary loses the faith of his gal pal, he has a “larger than assassin” moment where his morality and a clear view of his profession collide, etc., etc.

If you’re really looking for a Nick Cage fix, this is probably a good one to miss. Go home and remember the good days of something like “Gone in Sixty Seconds” where Nick actually has his hair. And at least some of his dignity.

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