Despite her “exceedingly” low bar when it comes to enjoying action cinema, Hyacinth Lee made a terrible mistake by choosing to rewatch Nicolas Cage’s Bangkok Dangerous. But hey, at least she was inspired to make her first meme.
When I was in high school in 2008/2009, I was part of a friend group whose usual ritual involved watching VHS action movies and going to shows. Considering my 17-year-old self beyond this particular genre, I often begrudgingly watched these movies with one eye on the screen and the other on whatever else might be around—my Blackberry, my friend’s cat Shiva….whatever. The only action movie I remember watching back then and genuinely loving during this time was Tango and Cash.
*Note* I have not watched Tango and Cash in about 10 years. I assume it’s infallible and has no problems whatsoever.
When Bangkok Dangerous came up for review, I saw it as a wonderful opportunity to revisit a high-stakes action film that I didn’t fully appreciate as an adolescent but would come around to appreciate as a grown-ass adult. But hey, guess what? This wasn’t the Cagessaince I wanted. This was not the Second Coming of Con Air that I so desperately hoped it would be. This movie wasn’t even bad enough as Ghost Rider or Face/Off (which I contend is a GOOD movie) to be enjoyable. This was a wholly mediocre 1 hour and 39 minutes of my life I could have spent watching True Lies or Bloodsport or Predator or The Matrix or Roadhouse or… fucking anything. I could have rewatched all the MBMBaM and The Adventure Zone animatics on YouTube and it would have been a more pleasant use of my time than watching this wet blanket of an action film. I am a Paloma and two Pacificos deep and would like to say—ugh.
I could not fathom how boring this movie would be on rewatching. I will be the first to admit that my bar for entertainment when it comes to action is exceedingly low. If a stunt is good, or something is unpredictable, I’ll clap along. I want to be taken on an adventure and I will suspend my disbelief for egregious plot holes is the stunts are dope enough. Action movies, to me, occupy a similar space as romance novels in my life these days, wherein I can take the time to escape into a predictable pattern and release myself to the ride. There is a formula I expect and welcome. So when I can’t escape into this pattern, I get real bummed out. Bangkok Dangerous bummed me out. It took me a full six hours to watch this. Here are things I did during the rewatch of this movie:
- Washed the dishes
- Cleaned the cupboards
- Did my nails
- Went out for drinks with a friend
- Windexed the mirrors in the house
- Colored in my Old Hollywood coloring book
- Paused the movie and watching several scenes from John Wick, just to feel alive again
- Made my very first meme
I could not tell you the plot of this movie in great detail. It doesn’t matter. Plot is a construct; tear it apart, Pang Brothers. Nic Cage is doing his best/worst Nick Cave cosplay and he’s an assassin. He feels human connection for the first time in his career for inexplicable reasons after meeting a street hustler, who inexplicably reminds him of himself, and a beautiful deaf pharmacist. He questions why he’s doing what he’s doing. He half-heartedly murders some important Thai people. He kills himself. The movie is over.
That’s more or less all that you need to know. I felt as much emotion watching this movie as Nic Cage accurately acted during it, which is to say none at all. The film, with its steely blue filter that made certain this film looked dated within a few years, tried at every turn to impact the feelings of the viewer regardless of the thespian molasses that is Nic Cage. There are undeserved quick-cuts, narration in place of actual narrative development, sweeping shots of Wing Chun training session that look like an unrehearsed slapfest…anything to illicit a care in the world out of the viewer, which for me fell completely flat. The most invested I felt in this movie were moments that had little or nothing to do with Nic Cage’s plotline. I really wanted to watch the whole Muy Thai fight play out that happened about 20 minutes into the movie. I recognize that it was just there to be background entertainment, but it was the only time I felt like there were genuine stakes to the action on screen or that any parties involved cared about what was happening. It lasted for all of two minutes.
I was surprised (but suppose I shouldn’t be) that a movie helmed by two Hong Kong-born filmmakers could be so unfair towards its non-white leads. Nic Cage, for some reason beyond my imagination, is so charismatic (barf) and appealing (hrmpf) that he not only wins over Kong, the street-wise hustler, but somehow courts this beautiful pharmacist who was literally JUST TRYING TO DO HER JOB when by essentially giving her a thumbs up and stumbling around in English. He repeats English words over and over until she somehow understands him and giggles sweetly at his bumbling attempts to communicate with her. They go on dates, he comes to watch her perform a traditional Thai dance, they pet an elephant that’s just hanging out, and finally he goes home with her to meet (I’m assuming) her mother—and this is where he FINALLY learns her name. Or maybe what her name means (which is “rain.” I interpreted their hand motions more as “face waterfalls.”) It’s “Fon”—but the movie didn’t really care about letting us know that. The actress who plays Fon is beautiful and sweet and I’m so bummed that she got cast in a movie solely to try and give Nic Cage some humanity. Every woman in this movie is a plot mover for a shitty dude’s shitty actions. It straight up sucks.
Oh, I never mentioned that Nic Cage’s character is named Joe, which bugged me but let’s be honest, what didn’t?
Props do have to be given to the gorgeous Chakrit Yamnam who played Kong—he was doing his absolute best and I wish the movie had been about him and that Nic Cage would’ve gotten tied up in customs after the first few minutes.
There were so many problems with this movie that I intuited at age 17 as a and still feel at age 27. This movie committed the cardinal sin of action movies: It was boring. I have boring written several times in my notes. Like I said before, I’m willing to forgive a lot if the action is good. But in a movie where Nic Cage shark-murders a man in a swimming pool and also kills someone in a low-speed river boat chase by jumping in their boat, cutting their hand off that’s holding a gun, and then taking the gun out of the dismembered hand and shooting them with it, the action still drags. Nothing matters in this movie.
An excerpt from my meticulous notes:
Good call, 17-year-old me. You didn’t make a lot of good choices, but thinking this movie was doo-doo nonsense was the right call.