Laura CliffordKong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit) is a lonely deaf-mute whose sole friend, Jo (Pisek Intrakanchit), has trained him for a very special career as a hired assassin. Kong is very good at his job, dispatching his assignments with cold calculation. His ruthless life, though, is about to be softened when he meets a pretty, smart pharmacist, Fon (Premsinee Ratansopha), who shows the solitary man an act of kindness. He sees that there is more to life than death in "Bangkok Dangerous."
The DVD release of "Bangkok Dangerous (1999)" coincides with the Pang brothers (Oxide and Danny) upcoming release of their remake starring Nicolas Cage. Their near-10-year old film is a solid piece of storytelling with Kong's harsh, deadly life changed forever when he meets Fon. She takes over when an obtuse clerk fails to notice Kong's handicap. Fon understands, immediately, that he is deaf and, soon, they begin to see each other. A sweet romance ensues.
Meanwhile, Jo's stripper girlfriend (and Kong's friend), Aom (Patharawarin Timkul), is brutally raped by a rival gang boss and Jo, in bad physical condition, goes off to avenge her. It is a setup, though and Jo exposes himself to a fusillade of deadly gunfire. When Kong learns of the betrayal, he plans revenge, a move that is counter to all of his training and conditioning. The phrase, 'Revenge is a dish best served cold,' is thrown out the window.
Pawalit Mongkolpisit is handsome and soulful as the sociopath Kong. The Pangs use flashbacks to his childhood to show the boy beaten and ostracized for his deafness to build up to his often brutal job. Fon's (sweetly and believably played by Premsinee Ratansopha) arrival changes him, opening up his long quiescent good side. It may prove to be his downfall but, then, maybe not. The Pang brothers balance the nitty gritty assassination game with a nice romance that feels of redemption.
The DVD is just the movie. No frills at all and a marketing attempt to garner some extra revenue by capitalizing on the Nic Cage version. (Though, with the upcoming "Bangkok Dangerous" not being screened for critics, I have my doubts.) The best things about the film are the four performances given by the principals. I give it a B and a C for the nothing-extra DVD.
Deaf mute Kong (Thai Best Actor winner Pawalit Mongkolpisit) knows little but his close knit circle of friends, Aom (Patharawarin Timkul), a disco madam who conveys instructions from the local mob to both Kong and his partner, her boyfriend Jo (Pisek Intrakanchit) in "Bangkok Dangerous."
Hong Kong filmmaking brothers Danny and Oxide Pang of "The Eye" series began their joint career (Oxide has one earlier directorial credit) with this Thai set film starring first time actors. First Look Studios is releasing a barebones DVD of the film to coincide with the 2008 remake (by the brothers) starring Nicholas Cage.
Presented in full frame (the original film had a 1:85 aspect ratio), "Bangkok Dangerous" sports an old-as-the-hills hit man story jazzed up by flashy visuals and a charismatic turn by the very good looking lead. Kong receives his mark from Aom and proceeds to a sniper location. A little girl spies him and he hesitates, but hits his target while she delights in the result of her two-fingered 'shot.' At a local drugstore, when one druggist cannot communicate with him, Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha) intercedes and Kong is smitten by her kindness and youthful innocence. A halting romance begins. Meanwhile, Aom has rebuffed the advances of the mob boss's right hand man and is raped for her troubles. When Jo retaliates, it is he, Kong and Aom up against the hand that formerly fed them.
The film alternates between fast-paced action scenes (disco scenes include rainbow color strobing, indicative of Oxide's beginnings as a colorist and Danny's as an editor) with closeup character scenes (often too closeup, such as when we're presented with Kong's right eye, the rest of his face offscreen). Befitting the hero's deaf/muteness, there is little dialogue until the film's midsection, which may explain why some of the early film, often shot in darkness, is a bit difficult to follow. Technically, the film is an odd mix of flash and murk. The story of the hit man with a heart of gold has been told before, and better (Luc Besson's "The Professional," for one), but Kong and Fon's relationship is still sweetly told. Based on his performance here, it is surprising that Pawalit Mongkolpisit has not become a bigger star (IMDB only lists two further film credits in films that did not see U.S. release).
The DVD's only additional offering is the film's original trailer.
The Pang brothers's Nicholas Cage starring remake is not being screened for press by its distributor, Lionsgate, but its story has been significantly changed in that it is the love interest who is now the deaf mute. Instinct says the 1999 version is the better film.
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