Bangkok Dangerous (2001)
Release Date: October 19th, 2001 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Oxide Pang, Danny Pang Actors: Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Premsinee Ratanasopha, Patharawarin Timkul, Pisek Intrakanchit, Piya Boonnak
tilizing an unlikely yet interesting character device of deafness, “Bangkok Dangerous” fuses preternatural skills for its hitman principal with the dark underworld of crime – and a glimmer of hope through unexpected love. It also uses music and subdued sound effects to submerse its audience in the protagonist’s desolate world, clearly taking the opportunity to demonstrate style over substance. Further combined with vivid colors, slow motion, and distorted chronology, directors Oxide and Danny Pang muster a truly unique action film that, in a rare feat, manages a serving of sensible drama to what could have been purely John Woo homages.
Deaf and mute loner Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) finds friendship in a professional assassin named Jo (Pisek Intrakanchit), who decides to teach the unassuming yet bitter disciple the ruthless principals of his trade. When Jo is maimed in a hit gone wrong, Kong takes over for the hired killer to carry out murderous tasks demanded by faceless conspirators. His life is forever changed when he meets the timid pharmacy clerk Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha), whose affection causes Kong to face the harsh realities and deadly consequences of this newfound profession – for which there’s no room for personal attachments or romance. In a desperate bid to uphold his tutor’s code of honor and protect those he loves, Kong is thrust into a vengeful battle against the Hong Kong mob, fully embracing the violence he can’t seem to shed.
The frenetic editing is both a highlight of the film’s singularity and a burden on the cohesive flow. Oftentimes the blurry slow-motion and vibrant colors work to enhance scenes of drama by adding a stylized intensity, but the action moments lose their impact as a result of the disorienting camera movements and odd focusing. From the mesmerizing opening credits to the multi-tinctured flashes of nightclub neons, the visuals scream of modernized cool – but an extreme abundance of such flair detracts from more motion-oriented choreography, especially in the climactic chase sequences. Adventure is difficult to appreciate when so heavily obscured.
“Bangkok Dangerous” is a statement on the ouroboros of violence and the potential for redemption from unspeakable sins – as well as the somber belief that the two cannot coexist. Even when Kong finally realizes the tragic consequences of his endeavors, it’s too late; death and destruction present a fatalistic inevitability, as if compelled to revert back to the only path (and profession) he knows (not unlike Clint Eastwood’s William Munny from “Unforgiven,” who perfectly symbolizes an unavoidable resurfacing of the past). The Pang Brothers would go on to remake “Bangkok Dangerous” in 2008, with Nicolas Cage in the lead, strangely sans the aural handicap.
– Joel Massie