The incongruous sensory overload of never-ending silence is potently captured by clamorous, unrelenting editing and a brilliant lead performance in the gritty but heartfelt Thai import "Bangkok Dangerous."
An intense, pulsating, ironically noise-fueled redemption fable about a young, deaf-mute hitman, the film has a colorful, rave-mix energy that sweeps the audience into Bangkok's neon-emblazoned underworld. There Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) gets assassination assignments from an embittered stripper, the former lover of his mentor Jo (Pisek Intrakanchit) -- a veteran killer in his 20s like Kong, whose livelihood was ruined by taking a bullet in his gun-firing hand during a botched hit.
Kong never questions his assignments -- in fact, in the movie's frantic opening scenes we see him take out a business executive right in front of a little girl after only a moment's panicked hesitation. Passively sociopathic and melancholy, Kong never communicates much of anything to anyone until the day he meets Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha), a pretty pharmacy counter girl.
Her interest is piqued by his disability, so on a date they go to a Charlie Chaplin film festival and flirt by writing to each other with a felt pen on Kong's arms. But when street thugs jump them on their way home, Kong empties his guns into the muggers, frightening the girl off and making him suddenly and acutely aware of morality, possibly for the first time.
Without a single word of dialogue, Mongkolpisit vividly projects the intensity of Kong's constant internal struggle, which is only exacerbated by his flood of new feelings. Love, protectiveness, guilt, shame, anger, self-loathing -- his dark eyes are just streams of raw emotion and confusion. But he's always intently focused when there's an execution at hand.
At the same time, innovative writing-directing brothers Oxide and Danny Pang envelop the audience in Kong's world with forceful flashes of deafening chaos, startling silence and memory. Well-executed flashbacks fill in how Jo discovered Kong sweeping up at an indoor firing range. Noticing he didn't wear ear protection, Jo gave him a gun to shoot out of curiosity. Kong hit the bull's eye over and over.
In a rapid-fire montage, we then see Jo take Kong under his wing, get shot in his palm, and take to resentful depression as Kong picks up where he left off.
Back in the present and desperate to win the girl back, Kong soon finds himself in a quandary, becoming an angry avenger after the stripper is raped and Jo is killed by a dark crime syndicate that's coming after him next. Everyone associated with a big political assassination is being eliminated -- and still Kong has his mind on Fon.
The Pangs' powerful visual style manifests itself best in two scenes that jack up the movie's potency tenfold as Kong leaves Fon an apology note and goes on a rampage, symbolically flanked by Jo's ghostly spirit. An incredible shootout ensues in the halls of the syndicate's headquarters, but the mob boss makes a getaway, leading to a foot chase down a maze of narrow alleyways with guns a-blazin' so indiscriminately that you can smell something catastrophic on the wind.
If "Bangkok Dangerous" gets the notice it deserves, the Pangs could be the next Asian filmmakers to rise above the action pigeonhole and make an impact on world cinema.
Run time: 99 mins
In Theaters: Friday 5th September 2008
Box Office USA: $15.2M
Box Office Worldwide: $42.5M
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Production compaines: Virtual Studios, Initial Entertainment Group, Saturn Films, International Production Company, Blue Star Pictures, Living Films, Bangkok Dangerous
Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 9%
Fresh: 8 Rotten: 86
IMDB: 5.4 / 10
Director: Pang Brothers
Starring: Nicolas Cage as Joe, Shahkrit Yamnarm as Kong, Charlie Yeung as Fon, Panward Hemmanee as Aom, Nirattisai Kaljaruek as Surat, Dom Hetrakul as Aran, Tuck Napaskorn as Kong's Brother, Steve Baldocchi as Michigan, Chris Heebink as USC, James With as Chicago
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