Cage: All Thai-ed up


Nicolas Cage’s last film, “National Treasure 2” grossed more than every single film that David Spade has ever taken a lead role in – combined. Think about that. Spade, who has almost a dozen pictures to his name, could tally up the grosses of his leading-role films (not including cartoons, of course) for his past decade in movies and they don’t scratch one of Cage’s lesser films.


I do not bring this up to pick on that sawed-off star of such fims as “Joe Dirt” and “The Benchwarmers.” There is a specific reason I am using the diminutive daddy-to-be as a measuring stick for Cage. It is because it’s been five years since a film has had such low opening-weekend numbers and still retained the number-one spot at the box office. Cage’s latest “Bangkok Dangerous” took in a total of $7 million.


The last time a film posted such a weak debut and still landed atop the cinematic heap? That crown goes to Spade, whose “Dickie Roberts: Former Child Star,” grossed a paltry $6.7 million in 2003 while still being able to brag “We’re Number One!” Adjust that tally for ticket price inflation (about one dollar and change per ticket) and little “Dickie” would have been more dangerous than “Bangkok” at the box office.


It’s not that “Bangkok” is a bad film, either. Rather, it’s a terrible film. There are only faint glimmers of promise that directors The Pang Brothers demonstrated in their earlier work from their native Hong Kong home, and Cage has never looked more bored with being an action star.


Remember when there was a reason to hire Cage for a film beyond bankability? It was the promise that no matter how bland the character or the film, Cage could be counted on to inject an off-kilter credibility that would at least elevate the product ever-so-slightly.


Otherwise-generic offerings like “Con Air,” “Guarding Tess” and “National Treasure” were deemed watchable if only for the tangential takes Cage would inject in his role.


But from the first line of voiceover dialogue (“My name is Joe…This is what I do.”) to the final frame, “Dangerous” does not contain a single scene of originality. In fact, Cage is perhaps the only reason this entire film did not wind up making its debut at a local Blockbuster (Steven Seagal is somewhere shedding a silent ninja tear he did not get this).


Joe is an assassin. In Bangkok. And he’s dangerous. There’s a deaf girl love interest (Why is she deaf? Perhaps to save money by giving the actress a non-speaking role. Other than that, I’ve got no idea.) and a peppy sidekick. Everything (and everyone) else in the film is basically as irrelevant as the title. (Honestly, this film could be called “Vietnam Perilous,” or “Cambodia Mildly Inconvenient” with little difference.)


Cage shuffles through the cliches as though he’s embarrassed by the hideous hair extensions he must wear for the role (apparently on loan from Tom Hanks in “The DaVinci Code”). Scene after scene cribs from better films as Cage provides invaluable assassin training tips: (“Time is very important”… and “Don’t pull the trigger, squeeze it.” are just two of the pearls of wisdom he shares with his young protegee).


The directors, Danny and Oxide Pang, are mildly celebrated in Hong Kong. Arguably their best work was “The Eye,” which managed to out-creep “The Ring” and all other long-haired-ghost-girl horror films that were cranked out of J-horror genre. Then, they were handed a satchel of cash to remake (read: dumb down and homogenize) it for American audiences last year with Jessica Alba. Their original “Bangkok Dangerous” was released in 1999 and earned points for style, but was a rather empty-calorie crime drama at best. But even their visual flair is muted and neutered to the genre’s most generic trappings here.


Perhaps Cage used this film as an excuse to take a vacation in Thailand (maybe why he looks to tired and ticked off is that filming disrupted his leisure time), as I can think of no other discernible reason he saw appeal in this film.


Audiences certainly did not, as witnessed by the anemic opening weekend numbers.


Maybe he should consider teaming up with that cinematic powerhouse known as David Spade in a buddy action comedy. I hear his schedule is fairly open.


~ by usesoapfilm on September 9, 2008.

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