Cage film ‘Bangkok’ tanks at box office

Posted Sept. 07, 2008, at 8:48 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 12:50 p.m.

BANGKOK DANGEROUS,

directed by the Pang brothers, written by Jason Richman, 98 minutes, rated R.

File it under “What was he thinking?” And then file that file in the trash. The new Nicolas Cage movie, “Bangkok Dangerous,” a remake of the 1999 Thai film of the same name, finds Cage once again turning himself into such a hard-looking wreck, it’s difficult to watch the movie without being distracted by how jarringly bad he looks. Here’s a tip to Cage — your stylist hates you.

Look into it. While you’re at it, consider that good lighting, better dentures and a new weave that doesn’t look as if the Black Death fell on your head will save you from being a horror show in your next picture. It doesn’t make sense — why does he pointlessly continue to hit himself with the ugly stick, as he also did in two recent films, “Next” and “Ghost Rider”?

It isn’t because he wants to be taken seriously (the man does, after all, have an Academy Award) and it certainly has nothing to do with the characters he’s playing in these films, so it comes down to whether Cage even cares how he comes across onscreen. If he doesn’t care, it’s starting to show at the box office. “Dangerous” tanked.

In the film, Cage is Joe London, an international assassin so emaciated and drawn he looks like Amy Winehouse after setting her beehive ablaze. We first see him in Prague, where he skillfully takes out his target before jetting off to Bangkok for a working vacation. It’s there that he will kill four men for Surat (Nirattisai Kalijaruek), who oddly looks and behaves like an Asian version of William Shatner.

Beam me out of this movie! Anybadweave, along the way, Joe finds alliteration by hiring Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), a street thief eager to learn the ropes, and also by falling for a beautiful deaf-mute named Fon (Charlie Young), whose sweetness heals his wounds, including the scars etched into his heart. If that last line made you gag, so will parts of the movie, such as the awkward stalker scenes in which Joe tries to get his game on by picking up Fon at the pharmacy where she crushes meds.

Since Joe looks twice her age and tends to slink through the pharmacy’s aisles in an effort to catch glimpses of Fon, the film’s forced love angle feels uneasy at best, queasy at worst. What does Fon see in him, anyway? His life insurance policy? Given their language barrier, Joe’s inability to communicate beyond lines like “Thai food hot,” and his discount wicked witch wig, you have to wonder.

Anyway, it all goes predictably sour for all involved when Surat and his henchmen turn the tables on Joe in ways that grow increasingly ugly, though not especially exciting. As directed by the Pang brothers, Danny and Oxide, who directed the better original, “Bangkok Dangerous” feels more like a dated television action movie from the ’70s than it does anything made for today.

There’s a whiff of David Carradine about the whole production — you could see him headlining this venture 20 years ago. But with Cage only showing up for a paycheck and barely willing to go through the motions to earn it, he fails to bring to this dull project the retro-coolness Carradine would have brought with him.

Grade: D

On DVD and Blu-ray disc

Lately, Warner has dipped back into its past to offer several throwbacks on Blu-ray, including the 1996 thriller “Eraser,” in which Arnold Schwarzenegger plays a U.S. marshal working to protect Vanessa Williams’ Lee Cullen from certain doom; 1978’s “Every Which Way But Loose,” with Clint Eastwood paired opposite an orangutan — certainly not the highlight of his career, but not without a few laughs tucked in with the canned shenanigans; 1977’s “The Gauntlet,” with Eastwood protecting a prostitute with ties to the mob; and Eastwood again in the 1985 Western “Pale Rider,” with Eastwood cast as the Preacher, who finds God in the business end of a gun.

Dustin Hoffman, Morgan Freeman and Rene Russo struggle to suppress a deadly virus in 1995’s freak-out disease thriller “Outbreak,” and in 1995’s “Under Siege 2: Dark Territory,” Steven Seagal delivers his last good movie in a story that finds him fighting strangers on a train (in this case, terrorists).

Of that lot, recommended are “Eraser,” “Gauntlet,” “Rider” and “Siege.” Skip the others. In the spirit of sending out a warning call on the weakest of what’s now available, audiences should avoid the DVD and Blu-ray release of “Street Kings,” a stinker surprisingly written by the otherwise gifted James Ellroy. He joins director David Ayer in wasting Keanu Reeves, Hugh Laurie and Forest Whitaker in a police thriller so overblown, the chaos it creates is silly — and off-putting.

Everything is overblown in “The Love Guru,” an almost laughless comedy in which Mike Myers plays the self-help-loving guru Pitka. It’s a shoddy, gross-out dud, with Jessica Alba, Justin Timberlake and Vern Troyer competing for attention amid the haze of elephant, scat and male genitalia jokes. The week’s best release belongs to “The Busby Berkeley Collection, Vol. 2.”

For fans of Berkeley, the set pales slightly in the wake of the terrific first volume, but the four films featured here still are a kick (literally), with Berkeley whipping himself into a froth as he stages his typical whirlwind of massive musical numbers.

Included are 1936’s Academy Award-winning “Gold Diggers of 1937,” with Dick Powell and Joan Blondell; 1938’s “Gold Diggers in Paris,” with Rudy Vallee maneuvering the highs and lows (mostly the highs) of a robust Parisian nightclub; 1937’s “Hollywood Hotel,” in which Dick Powell is paired opposite Lola Lane; and Powell again in 1937’s “Varsity Show,” which finds Berkeley staging a football-themed finale that’s among his most dazzling work.

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http://www.WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and archive of movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Mondays, Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on www.bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.

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