Released in 2008 ▪ Review posted December 29, 2013
“We’d like to keep him the same, but we understand that from a marketing purpose Nic needs to have some lines, so what we’re going to do is transform his girlfriend into a deaf–mute. By switching the roles, the drama of communication between two people will remain the same.”
Oxide Pang, co-director of Bangkok Dangerous
Hollywood is a horrible black hole that consumes and destroys everything that gets close to it. Luckily for us, and unlike a real black hole, we can pay $12 to see what comes out on the other end. Accordingly, the two-dimensional output in question is Bangkok Dangerous. Despite my best efforts to find something positive to say, Nicolas Cage doesn’t come out looking pretty.
I did go in with hope. I wanted this movie, the Pang brothers’ 2008 remake of their own film of the same name, to be fun and delightful. I lowered my expectations during the long string of title cards for production companies I had never heard of, but it was seeing “Saturn Films” that really made me worry.
Saturn Films is Nicolas Cage’s own production company. It’s the engine behind such beauties as Stolen, The Wicker Man, and Knowing. There are some unexplained hits mixed in there, but most of Saturn Films’s record is dubious, and I’m starting to take its involvement to be a bad sign. It shows that Nic the person is involved, not Nic the actor. It says “pet project”—something for Cage to add to his cabinet of curiosities.
I have tried to keep this research project about Nicolas Cage’s acting ability, not his personal life, but now might be a good time to take a look at some of the things he’s been up to in the past ten years. He’s gone bankrupt. He’s remarried. He’s been arrested on suspicion of battery. He has responded with eccentric flair to life’s ups and downs, including starting a comic book with his son, buying and selling his own medieval castle in Bavaria, and producing and starring in Saturn Films projects.
In Bangkok Dangerous we get to see Cage’s acting during an actual midlife crisis, filtered through the prism of his enormous, bruised ego. It’s not as fun as you’d hope.
In the original Bangkok Dangerous, the hitman (played by Cage in the remake) was deaf and mute. This led to silent assassinations, a communication obstacle between the hitman and his apprentice, and extreme tension building. You know, the kinds of things that make an awesome action movie.
The one thing missing from the plot? That would be lines for the main character. So, for the remake, Saturn Films had the Pang brothers do a quick rewrite and add a forced love story. This time, an unknown foreign actress is the deaf–mute without any lines. A suit might have said, “All we need is for her to be a tongue receptacle for Nic Cage. Can we just credit her as ‘Tongue Receptacle to Mr. Cage’ and get around SAG?” Bangkok Dangerous is full of Hollywood interference and famous actor nonsense. It’s so self-indulgent, it’s a chore to endure.
Even if the plot sabotage could be fixed by good acting, we’ll never know, because Nic makes no effort. We just get the monotone, cardboard cutout, overplayed seriousness routine that Nic does sometimes.
The biggest sin, though, is the missed opportunity to faithfully adapt a cool foreign film that trades dialogue for emoting, movement, and expression. The Pang brothers were more blunt (see the quote at the top) in saying that not giving Cage dialogue would have been a bad marketing decision. If you’d like to hear Nic ramble on about how the Thai–American relationship between the two main characters is just as interesting, go here.
Finally, Bangkok Dangerous supports the Nicolas Cage Rule of Hair Length, a theory I recently learned about, which hypothesizes that you can tell the quality of any Cage film from the length of his hair: four inches or longer, and the movie will be bad. I’ll make some graphs and get back to you on that one.
- How was the movie?
- How was Nic Cage’s acting?
- Did his performance make the movie worse?
- 100% yes