Movie Review by Toby White
Starring: Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Premsinee Ratanasopha, Patharawarin Timkul
Director: Danny Pang, Oxide Pang Chun
It’s no secret that the influence of Hong Kong cinema is heavily affecting mainstream Hollywood – particularly in the shape of directors and action stars. Theirs is a fast-paced, 2000-edits-a-scene style that batters the senses about as heavily as the heroes batter their villains. So, before the off, let me point out that BANGKOK DANGEROUS is another spawning of that genre…but from Thailand.
Written and directed by the Pang brothers, it’s a refreshingly simple story: two brothers, Kong and Joe, are hit men in the Bangkok underworld. They share out their ‘hits’ and look out for each other – as brothers do – but more so given that Kong is deaf mute. This gives him a cold and mysterious air so when he meets Fon, a pharmacist’s assistant, his introduction to mainstream humanity is all the more poignant. However, just as he begins to taste the warmth of the world, courtesy of Fon’s innocence, his brother becomes the victim of the big crime boss (following a revenge killing for the rape of his girlfriend by one of the boss’s hoods) and Kong is forced into a dilemma – avenge his brother or enter society?
The sensibilities of the story are all there and its execution certainly fits the Hong Kong style but there’s a real dichotomy going on: the action sequences are as good as any from that genre but then the same style is applied to scenes that require a softer touch and it makes them feel inappropriate. It gives these scenes the feeling they have been added as a token gesture and consequently any sympathy for the characters is lost – by the time we reach the climatic sequence the exaggerated slow-mo and multiple camera angles seems to mock the subject matter. In addition, unfortunately, the performances do much to harm the film’s integrity. They are far too simplistic and often melodramatic which adds to its low-budget, amateur feel. A brief word on the music too: again, here it appears inappropriate. Music should compliment and enhance the action, not distract from it. I got the impression that the hard house beats for the action sequences were overbearing and an irritating, tinkling love theme for the softer moments was thrown in for effect only its efficacy was not achieved. This amateurishness, therefore, works against the overall stylishness of the film and it’s a shame when there are some wonderfully fresh moments – the novel ways in which the brothers despatch their victims and the sequence on the Hong Kong tube train in particular.
But perhaps I’m being too harsh. Are my opinions affecting my impartiality? Conversing with my peers on leaving the preview theatre, there were reactions across the spectrum and from people you wouldn’t have expected them from. One young male Hong Kong enthusiast thought it cheap whereas a middle-aged lady with a penchant for Merchant Ivory considered it charming. Well, there certainly is no accounting for taste.