"Bangkok" a skillful action excursion

Sat Sep 6, 2008 12:33am EDT
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By Stephen Farber

LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Everything is relative in the realm of hyperviolent movies, and compared to this summer's other assassination thriller, "Wanted," "Bangkok Dangerous" is a model of restraint and moral rectitude.

It still has more than enough mayhem to excite young males, but it doesn't fetishize murder with the same loving sensuality that you saw in "Wanted." This remake of the Pang brothers' 1999 Thai film was not screened for critics before Lionsgate released it Friday (September 5), but it's a pretty nifty B-movie and should do well for a week or two.

The picture opens with voice-over by Nicolas Cage's Joe, describing his vocation as hitman: "Work is steady, money's good, but it's not for everybody." That intro indicates one of the movie's unexpected strengths: a dry sense of humor, which the core audience might not even notice. The story is that ancient one about the gunslinger who wants to quit but agrees to take on one last assignment. Joe travels to Bangkok to hit four targets for a criminal syndicate. He begins to experience pangs of conscience when he meets a beautiful, deaf pharmacist and learns that one of his potential victims is a noble reformer.

The script by Jason Richman is predictable but workmanlike, and the Pangs' direction rocks. Like most movies these days, "Bangkok" is over edited to provide a frenzied adrenaline rush. But there are sequences -- an assassination in a hotel swimming pool and a motorcycle-and-boat chase through a floating market -- where the editing by Mike Jackson and Curran Pang is quite masterly. The film makes excellent use of the Bangkok locations.

Although many have questioned Cage's choice of vehicles lately, the Oscar-winning star brings understated wit and even a touch of tenderness to his portrayal here. As his eager young acolyte, Shahkrit Yamnarm is immensely likable, balancing a hustler's charm with the ingenuousness of a kid out of his depth. As the deaf pharmacist, Charlie Young has a lovely presence, though she can't surmount the script's maudlin moments.

"Bangkok" won't be making any appearances at the Oscars, but it is executed with skill and -- a severed limb or two notwithstanding -- without too much bloody excess.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

<p>Actor Nicolas Cage is shown on the TV Show "Wetten Dass" in Graz December 8, 2007. REUTERS/Herwig Prammer</p>