“My name’s Joe, and this is what I do,” intones Nic Cage’s hitman at the outset of Bangkok Dangerous, and overdoing it to ludicrous extremes is, more often than not, what Cage now engages in. With his past few pictures, the Oscar winner has taken a nosedive into ridiculous exaggeration, whether it’s of an unintentionally goofy sort (Ghost Rider, Next) or of a more self-serious variety (The Wicker Man). The latter mode is what Cage slips into for the Pang brothers’ loose remake of their 1999 film of the same name, in which assassin-for-hire Joe travels to Thailand to carry out four jobs for a crime boss, and winds up having his cold, detached heart touched by both employee-turned-apprentice Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) and deaf-mute pharmacist Fon (Charlie Young).
As they did with their original, the Pangs steal liberally from John Woo without ever replicating his shootout-choreography inventiveness or proficiency. Instead, they merely provide a series of ho-hum set pieces chiefly notable for their dreary darkness, which soon becomes the only way to explain how Cage’s supposedly expert, virtually invisible executioner—sporting an attention-grabbing, guffaw-encouraging lengthy hairpiece—doesn’t egregiously stand out in Bangkok. Joe’s dedication to following a set of governing professional “rules” is pure genre boilerplate, as is his eventual, thoroughly undeveloped and unconvincing decision to abandon those principles in the service of doing what’s noble.
Though considerably less than its predecessor, Bangkok Dangerous offsets its clichés with an occasional dose of visual flair. Given its routine monotony, however, the only compelling reason to endure this mechanical killer-with-a-soul saga is to witness Cage’s idiosyncratic theatrics, which here—relegated to a laughably stern training-Kong sequence, a fateful encounter with an elephant, and a romantic dinner in which he attempts to tell Fon, with hand gestures, that his food is wowza-spicy-hot—don’t rise to the level of pleasurably bad.