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Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bangkok Dangerous (1999)

Rating: 3/4

In a flashback we see Kong (Pawalit Mongkolpisit), a deaf-mute hitman, as boy. He is taunted and, horrifyingly, rocked by other children. That short, but powerful, flashback is the first glimpse we get at the tortured isolation that Bangkok Dangerous' lead character has faced his entire life. Through a series of black and white flashbacks we see Kong as a janitor for a target range where he discovers a talent for shooting by visualizing his childhood tormentors. At this same target range, he meets Joe (Pisek Intrakanchit) and Aom (Patharawarin Timkul). Joe is a hitman who sees Kong's talents and takes him under his wing. With the mentoring of Joe, Kong becomes a fearless and, unintentionally, a remorseless killer. His isolation from the world has kept him from having any relationships outside Joe and Aom. That is, until he meets Fon (Premsinee Ratanasopha), a pretty woman who works at a drugstore. Through Fon's compassion, Kong sees a chance for a relationship and his fearless nature will not let him fail.

Mixing touching sentimentality with extreme violence is a challenging task for any filmmaker, and the Pang brothers do an impressive job with it. What they let get out of control is their directing style. It seems that at every chance they get, the Pang brothers show off some nifty camera or visual trick. I'm all about some interesting experiments with directing style, but when it is allowed to take away from a scene that would have given a more touching impact without, well, that is when it goes too far. Many times throughout it seemed as if the entire look of the film was being experimented with. From changing to black and white to given off a drugged-out visual look. For the most part, the black and white parts are justified and even very fitting, but the dazed, and drugged-out visual tricks seemed more...unnecessary.

Back to the romance. The brief relationship between Kong and Fon is both very sweet and heartbreaking. Small things like being patient when he needs help at the drugstore and writing on his arm to communicate leave impacts on Kong that he had never even seen before. Watching them on there date to some sort of carnival, then to the Charlie Chaplin Festival where Kong enjoys watching a Chaplin silent-film while Fon is delighted to hear Kong laugh, then finally to some sort of simulation ride was a very touching moment in this film.

Kong is the only character we learn anything about other than what is shown to us. It is revealed that Joe and Kong worked together on a few jobs and on one job, Joe is shot in the hand jeopardizing his career. Joe's love for Aom becomes one of the vital parts in the film, leading to much of the bloodshed. With an abundance of major characters all the weight is put on the four major ones -- Kong, Joe,  Fon, and Aom. Each one of the modest for person ensemble do a powerful job. Through Kong, Joe, and even Aom we see the underbelly of Bangkok with all its violence. Through Fon we see a very ignorant section of Bangkok who are completely oblivious to what is really going on.

The moment when the film turns into a tragedy is when Kong sees on the news that one of his jobs was the murder of a well respected political figure. He sees the faces of the family of his victim and is heartbroken by their sorrow. After that moment the film begins to unravel all the way to the powerful climax. Not realizing the pain he is causing until more than halfway through the film seems like a very unlikely story, but it works well with the plot. Bangkok Dangerous proves that, somehow, emotional romance can be combined with mindless, and even emotionless violence. Not to mention, an ending that is both clever and tragic. Here is a good crime-drama that, while not being anything very new, is a fun, violent and even touching film.

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