It probably won’t come as any surprise to anyone that “Bangkok Dangerous,” the Thai contribution to the old (but clearly not going anywhere) Hitman Genre, is a faithful rendition of the best of the lot — that is, John Woo’s “The Killer.” All the conventions are here, including: our main character, the lonely hitman; the hitman’s mentor, who is no longer able to take on jobs because of injury; the untrustworthy boss who will stab you in the back at the drop of a hat; and last but certainly not least, the pure as snow innocent woman who wanders accidentally into our hero’s life, thus altering his view of life and his chosen profession. Check, check, check, and check.
“Bangkok Dangerous” purports to take place in the city of Bangkok, Thailand, but I’m hardpressed to either confirm or deny this claim, since the movie cares very little about its surroundings. The film stars Pawalit Mongkolpisit as Kong, a hitman who also happens to be deaf and (as a side effect of being deaf) a mute. Killing people must not pay much in Thailand, because Kong lives in crowded pigsty along with his buddy and mentor Joe (Pisek Intrakanchit), who has since retired from the profession because of an injury to his hand. Problems arise for Kong when a local gangster develops an eye for Aom (Patharawarin Timkul), the woman who acts as a broker between Kong and the powers that be. Unfortunately for everyone, Aom is also the ex-lover of Joe, and hurting Aom is like hurting Joe, and since hurting Joe is like hurting Kong, the inevitable result is a bad ending for all involved. Can you say, doomed characters?
The Pang Brothers, who will go on to write and direct the haunting “The Eye”, has clearly done their homework. They have all the conventions of the Hitman Genre down with very little variation. Everything from the crippled mentor to the innocent girl to the backstabbing boss are lifted directly from John Woo’s “The Killer,” which was itself probably lifted from some other Hitman film. As someone once said, There are no more original movie ideas, just variations of old ones.
The first thing one notices about “Bangkok Dangerous” is that it’s a grainy, grimy, and bleak film. Cinematographer Decha Srimantra films much of the movie with handheld cameras for the action sequences, undercranking and overcranking as the need arises to give the violence urgency. Everything is very chaotic and disorienting (and in the case of one nighttime hit, nearly impossible to discern what’s happening), which is as it should be. The brothers are going for realistic action and as a result you can see and hear every gunshot and pool of forming blood. (Although the film is very violent, there is actually an unrated version out there, which includes more minutes of violence. I cannot imagine how much more bloody that version is, because this rated version is quite bloody already.)
The acting in “Bangkok Dangerous” is dominated by the (of course) quiet Pawalit Mongkolpisit as Kong. The Pangs use creative flashbacks to give us glimpses into the childhood of Kong, and how it led to his fascination with guns and eventually the hitman profession. Having killed for so long, Kong has become immune to it, and treats it as no more than a side effect of earning a living. Even when he’s with Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha), the innocent woman who wanders into his life, Kong reverts back to the killer without missing a beat. Killing is no longer just something he does for a living; it’s what he’s become.
The supporting cast, for the most part, does a fine job. Patharawarin Timkul, as a nightclub owner and Kong’s go-between, is especially strong. Timkul delivers a subdued and powerful performance as a fierce woman trying to survive in a male-dominated industry. Her lost-love relationship with Pisek Intrakanchit’s Joe is quite effecting, especially when an event comes along that brings them back together at last. The rest of the cast, including Ratanasopha as Fon, are sideshows and have very little bearing on the movie as a whole. They mind as well be cardboards.
“Bangkok Dangerous” is a very good first effort by the Pang brothers, and if their sophomore work on “The Eye” proves anything, it’s that these guys are headed for something big. As it stands now, they’ve proven themselves to be vastly talented with a very low budget (“Bangkok Dangerous”) and equally able with a big budget (“The Eye”). It will be a pleasure to see what they come up with in the future.
Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (director) / Oxide Pang Chun, Danny Pang (screenplay)
CAST: Pawalit Mongkolpisit …. Kong
Premsinee Ratanasopha …. Fon
Patharawarin Timkul …. Aom
Pisek Intrakanchit …. Joe