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Now and Then – Bangkok Dangerous and The Professional

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     Now: Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
         Then: The Professional (1994)
 
Gloomy Killer Teaching in Thailand
     
          Hopeful Hitman Schools in U.S.

So you’ve decided to become a hitman? Here are two movies that could help your technique: Bangkok Dangerous with Nicolas Cage and The Professional  with Jean Reno. In each, a lonely assassin demonstrates the pros and cons of his trade while training a wannabe. Both movies are the products of foreign directors trying to meld Hollywood spectacle with their own artistic sensibility; Hong Kong born Danny and Oxide Pang have Cage teaching in Thailand, while French director Luc Besson sends his cleaner (Reno) to New York. The question is: Which one is more entertaining?

Hot for Teacher
Both Joe (Cage) and Leon (Reno) are excellent killers but the latter has an advantage in the looks department. It’s not that he’s better looking, it’s that he has a better haircut. For some reason, the Pang Brothers make Cage wear a ridiculous rug throughout Bangkok Dangerous. The hair is so bad you start to think that this is what makes Bangkok dangerous. Shouldn’t a hitman try to blend in? Also working in Reno’s favor is the fact that his young student makes naively inappropriate sexual advances. It’s so French!

A Killer With Character
It’s hard for an audience to empathize with a killer; it’s even harder to make it believable when he suddenly starts caring about others. “I sleep alone. I eat alone,” says Cage, in a not so subtle voiceover. As for Reno, his longing for companionship is so extreme that his best friend is a houseplant. Poor Cage feeds elephants in the dark and oozes gloom and doom. Reno puts on a puppet show, impersonates John Wayne, and drinks a lot of milk. It’s easier to love an assassin who’s optimistic.

What You’ll Learn
It’s not clear why Cage’s character is taking on a student. The Professional’s decision to open up is easy to understand: His 12-year-old pupil will likely die if he doesn’t. They’re both excellent teachers doling out advice like: “Don’t pull the trigger, squeeze it” and “No women. No kids.” Requisite training montages underscore the same lesson: Life is about redemption.

The Verdict
Bangkok Dangerous has neither the suspense nor the deep characters of the edgy Thai original from the same Pang Brothers. When you compare it to The Professional, which is both action packed and effectively heartwarming, you suddenly long for sexually precocious teens and even a little more sentimentality. (And to think that part got criticized back in the day!)

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