March 15, 2010 -- I'm sorry I spent a dollar to rent this film, but glad I didn't spend $10 to see it in a theater. It is a waste of time and money. I say this as a guy who actually wrote positive reviews for other recent Nicholas Cage movies that many other critics panned, like Ghost Rider, Knowing and Next. I like most Nicholas Cage movies, but this one is an exception. It is an action movie in which even the action scenes are screwed up.
In this film Cage plays a hit man named Joe (to save time all the main characters have names of a single syllable) who is weary of his lonely existence. He figures he will get out of the game after one last job in Bangkok. He uses a go-between to pick up assignments and payments. None of his clients have seen his face. To preserve his anonymity, he murders the go-between after each assignment, hiring a new one for each new assignment. I know, what a scumbag. During the endless voice-over narration in the film, he keeps saying this is how he was taught to run his business. I kept expecting the usual grasshopper-like flashbacks to this training, but they never happened. Maybe they did happen, then got cut out of the film.
Joe violates some of the rules he was taught and gets personally involved with his go-between, Kong (played by Shahkrit Yamnarm) becoming his assignation techniques teacher. He also gets involved with a young woman, Aom (Panward Hemmanee). See what I mean about those one-syllable names? The movie saves even more time by rendering Aom mute. No lines of dialogue at all for poor Aom. This saves both time and money. These involvements cause Joe to become more human and he develops a conscience, which, of course, leads to lots of trouble. This is a movie cliché: People who have no conscience have smooth sailing on the sea of life, and if they suddenly develop a conscience, this quickly leads to violence.
There are numerous problems with the film, largely having to do with the screenplay, which is insufficient as a procedural drama, an action film, a romance, a psychological drama, or as a morality tale, although it does try to perform all these functions. The action scenes are poorly staged, shot and edited. The sketchy assassination sequences could have been more interesting if they had shown more about how the assassin plans and sets up the kill. “The Day of the Jackal” (the original, not the remake) shows how this is done. The romantic scenes aren't bad, but those are a relatively minor part of the film. The conclusion of the film at least makes some sense, but it is a downer. This has the look of a cheap quickie foreign film, not unlike a Hong Kong action film. My suspicion is that this was a quick paycheck for Cage who is reportedly having severe financial problems, which is amazing, given how much money he must be earning for all the films he is making these days. His spending levels must be astronomical. This sounds like a serious problem and maybe he needs to get some help. This film rates a D.
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