Nicolas Cage gave legitimately great performances in Raising Arizona, Moonstruck, Leaving Las Vegas, Bringing Out The Dead, Red Rock West, Matchstick Men, and Adaptation. His hambone tendencies, meanwhile, have flourished in great bad performances in Con Air, the National Treasure movies, Zandalee, Sonny, and The Wicker Man. Then there are Cage performances that are so giddily, gloriously over the top that they muddy the line separating great from awesomely bad, like Face/Off, Wild At Heart, and Vampire's Kiss. Alas, Cage gives a depressingly awful performance in Bangkok Dangerous, the Pang brothers' DOA remake of their 1999 Thai cult thriller. Burdened with a permanent scowl and dead eyes, Cage never seems to be having any fun. His joylessness proves infectious.
The Pangs' wildly melodramatic tale of a deaf assassin who finds love and meaning when he falls for a pretty pharmacist has been pointlessly transformed into the marginally less outlandish story of a supremely gifted non-deaf hitman (Cage) who re-examines his life after he falls for a pretty deaf-mute pharmacist. Cage strives to be a mechanical killer who moves like a ghost in a world free of emotional attachments, but he breaks his own hardboiled code when he takes a brash young hustler (Shahkrit Yamnarm) under his wing as a protégé and finds love at the pharmacy. Alas, these relationships are as bloodless, murky, and underwritten as everything else in the film: an arbitrary training montage or two does not a memorable friendship make.
Bangkok Dangerous is all about the trappings and iconography of cool. Cage races around Bangkok on motorcycles while decked out in leather and totes an arsenal of guns, but with his receding hairline, terrible dye job, puffy face, and embarrassing haircut, he exudes about as much menace and mystery as a vacationing dad rocking black wool socks with open-toed sandals. Cage emerges as little more than a glowering, humorless cipher. John Woo could transform this kind of blood-splattered pulp into operatic high art, but the Pang brothers confuse style for substance and end up delivering neither. Dimly lit, emotionally empty, and devoid of thrills, Bangkok Dangerous should disappoint Cage fans looking for Wicker Man-style camp thrills just as thoroughly as action buffs looking for a passable thriller. It's never close to good, and it can't even get bad right.