Bangkok Dangerous

by Dan Wilson

Originally released in 1999, “Bangkok Dangerous” is the first film co-directed by identical twin brothers Danny and Oxide Pang, who went on to direct 2002’s stylish thriller, “The Eye.” In the film, Kong is an assassin who lives on the fringes of Bangkok’s underworld. His roommate Joe taught him the trade, but has recently retired. Kong continues to carry out the assignments that he receives from Aom, Joe’s stripper ex-girlfriend. When Kong meets Fon at the local drugstore, he decides it’s time to get out of the assassin business. Typical to the hired-gun genre, the film explores Kong’s chance at redemption for past wrongs. Produced in Thailand, the film has its roots in the Hong Kong film industry. Prior to relocating to Bangkok, both brothers gained extensive experience in Hong Kong, where Oxide worked as a colorist and Danny as an editor. Reminiscent of the Hong Kong action/crime genre, “Bangkok Dangerous” shows that the Pangs have a great understanding of the genre’s conventions and manage to use them quite well. The brothers’ biggest strength, however, is in their sense of visual storytelling. They have an incredible gift for using the camera. From the fresh and innovative opening credit sequence to the camera angles and movement around the action, every scene is dynamic and interesting to watch. Use of different film stocks give different looks for various scenes, such as flashbacks to Kong’s traumatic childhood, and these are well-placed to make sense in the context of the story. Even scenes that are standard for the genre, like the requisite restaurant shooting, are shot and edited with a flair and energy that helps set this film apart from others. The closing warehouse shootout, which could have easily become just another exercise in gunplay, is well choreographed, paced wonderfully, and culminates in Kong’s final standoff with the police. This particular sequence has some incredible visual flourishes that transcend the generic conventions. Pawalit Mongkolpisit delivers a wonderful performance as Kong, and despite his chosen profession, you actually are on his side and care about his relationship with Fon, played by Premsinee Ratanasopha, as it starts to develop. There’s a wonderful scene in a bar where Fon tries to guess what Kong does for a living, capturing a tender humanity between the two that’s relatively rare for the genre. While “Bangkok Dangerous” doesn’t stretch the boundaries of the Hong Kong action film very far, it’s a hip and stylized thriller that’s sumptuously photographed and impeccably edited. The visual style and camerawork support the story instead of being just eye candy, as more often than not tends to be the case. The soundtrack is very well done, and does an excellent job of setting the mood and flow of the film without being obvious and intrusive. If you’ve not seen this gem, I’d highly recommend it. “Bangkok Dangerous” is available on VHS and DVD at video stores around Milwaukee.