I ran across the trailer for his next film, Bangkok Dangerous, an English-language remake of a 1999 Thai film of the same name, both directed by the Pang brothers of Hong Kong cinema fame. They made the original The Eye, most recently butchered in the States by one Jessica Alba.
No surprises in the plot. Hitman goes to Bangkok, has an existential crisis about his work and goes head to head with corrupt Thai government officials and slimy underworld figures. And of course, he finds the love of a good-hearted native woman (though I don't think she appears as a sushi waitress—ZING!) who teaches him that there are, indeed, at least a few decent folks in Asia.
There has undoubtedly been a boom in American remakes of Asian movies, many of which I think are wholly unnecessary. I think most remakes are futile. If the film was so great in the first place, why redo it? They should remake horrible movies so that they're actually tolerable upon second viewing; we can start with all of Vin Diesel's films, post-Saving Private Ryan.
But why is the remake, particularly of Asian films, so popular? And why, even with some Asian directors still at the helm, do the protagonists almost always go from yellow to white? Gang Gary Xu, assistant professor of Chinese, Comparative Literature and Cinema Studies at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, discusses that very issue in an article for Senses of Cinema. Xu writes, "Cinema consumption used to follow a unidirectional trail of popularity: whatever proved successful in North America would surely be welcomed in East Asia as long as those countries open their markets to Hollywood. Now, thanks to transnationalism, the trail has traffic from both ways: whatever proved successful in East Asia would most likely succeed in North America as long as the original ethnicity is changed to that of Caucasian."
So will Nic Cage's Caucasian face sell this movie to America? My theory is, if you can sell National Treasure, you can sell pretty much anything. But hey, Bangkok Dangerous 2008 isn’t a complete rehash of the original. In the Thai version, the protagonist was deaf and mute. If only we were so lucky this go around…
Bangkok Dangerous opens this August.
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