Film Friday: ‘Bangkok Dangerous’ & TIFF 2008

by W. Andrew Powell

Nicholas Cage in Bangkok Dangerous

Opening this week across Canada, Nick Cage plays Joe, the mopey hitman who tries to figure out his life in Bangkok Dangerous, plus the 2008 Toronto International Film Festival takes over Toronto, heralding this year’s fall film season.

Bangkok Dangerous
While Nicolas Cage’s career is far from sputtering, I’m starting to feel a little sorry for the actor and sometimes producer.

As a star of schlocky popcorn films, pulpy dramas, and sometimes strange comedies, Cage has had a fine career, but it’s starting to seem a little tired as the bad films pile up on his resume. Take a look at his roles in Next, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, or The Wicker Man and you can’t help but wonder why some of his characters are not only boring, but they’re also rip offs of other characters he has already played.

For his new film by directors Oxide Pang and Danny Pang, Cage plays Joe, an assassin traveling through Thailand on his latest job. Initially planning to hire a street tough to help him, and then kill him off when he’s done with him, Joe unexpectedly becomes a mentor for the young Kong, played by Shahkrit Yamnarm. The usually tough-skinned killer also falls into a relationship with a local girl, and of course that’s precisely when Surat, the man he has come to kill, starts making trouble for our hitman.

Based on the early reviews so far, neither the New Yorker nor Variety have much love for the film, or Cage’s latest forgettable role.

“Hollywood and the television industry have long since sucked what they require from the tropes and rhythms of Asian films,” Anthony Lane wrote for the New Yorker, “and parts of Bangkok Dangerous, far from seeming unfamiliar or freshly stylized, offer nothing that you couldn’t catch on CSI.”

But all of the early reviews also point what Variety writer Jordan Mintzer sums up as a “humdrum persona” from Cage. The actor who energized roles and turned his acerbic style into cash has seen better days, and when his films make boatloads of cash, as was the case with National Treasure 2, it’s hard to understand how he manages it.

Look at his box office tendencies though and you’ll notice a depressing trend: Cage’s films routinely only earn a fraction more than their budgets at the box office, or else they’re big flops.

Since Bangkok Dangerous is supposed to be budgeted at a mere $40 million though, it’s quite possible Cage could come out on top this time, especially since the film is the only one opening across Canada this week. More than likely though, this will be another bomb at the box office, which I can only hope will snap Cage out of his multi-picture funk.

The Toronto International Film Festival
With the International film world descends on Toronto for the next week, this is that time of year when we get a bit of a glimpse into the films that are on their way this fall and winter.

For Canadians, the top film at the festival should be the truly homegrown Passchendaele, which was written and directed by star Paul Gross. Shot in Alberta, the film tells the story of the 10th Battalion and their struggles during the Third Battle of Ypres, also known as Passchendaele, in the First World War. The film also co-stars Caroline Dhavernas and Gil Bellows, and while it’s not getting spectacular reviews, it’s the type of film Canadians should try to see if for no other reason than to see a part of our history translated into celluoid.

Other films, which also debut soon in theatres, include the Coen brother‘s dark comedy Burn After Reading, which stars George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Frances McDormand and Tilda Swinton in a story of CIA espionage. There’s Rachel Getting Married, starring the amazing Anne Hathaway as a rehabilitated woman dealing with her family, and her sisters upcoming wedding.

And I can’t help but mention Guy Ritchie‘s latest crime drama, RocknRolla starring Gerard Butler, Tom Wilkinson, Thandie Newton, and Chris “Ludacris” Bridges, or Kevin Smith‘s new slightly controversial comedy, Zack and Miri Make a Porno.

The festival wraps up on September 13, and I’ll have another report with a few film reviews and stories in next week’s Film Friday.

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