In advance of its release last week, Disaster Movie was slammed for the insensitivy of its release date -- on the third anniversary of one of the worst natural disasters in history. (Hurricane Gustav narrowly avoided adding injury to insult.) Probably for a variety of reasons, audiences stayed away in droves, as Eugene noted. Now Bangkok Dangerous, the only wide release scheduled for this week, finds itself overtaken by current events. What else do the two apparent stinkers have in common? Lionsgate, their US distributor.
Lionsgate must pride itself on its highly-targeted slate being critic-proof, since it maximizes profits by skipping most advance screenings for critics and relying entirely on a blitkreig of advertising to fill theaters on opening weekend before word of mouth can spread. In fact, they informed publications some time ago that no advance press screenings for Bangkok Dangerous would be held. As Josh Tyler of Cinema Blend commented when reporting on the notice: "Not screened for the press almost always means the movie is so bad even the people who made it know the film is awful."
Cinematical will post a review later this week, after it opens. But advance word -- and current events -- make the movie sound like another disaster for Lionsgate.
With a different distributor in France, a Variety critic got a look and declared: 'Meh.' (Actually, it was summed up as "only mildly pungent.") The film stars the "mostly laconic" Nicolas Cage as a hitman finishing up his last four contracts in Bangkok, where he falls platonically for deaf pharmacist Charlie Young (AKA veteran Hong Kong actress Charlie Yeung). The Pang Brothers -- Danny and Oxide -- share directing duties in this remake of their 1999 Thai-language original, in which the hitman was a deaf mute.
As to current events, this week Thailand's prime minister has declared a state of emergency in the country. Bangkok-based writer Wise Kwai reports: "The emergency decree is so far having little effect on the lives of ordinary Bangkokians, who are free to move about the city and continue with their daily lives." He says there was concern that the Thai Short Film & Video Festival would be cancelled, but that has not been the case so far.
The film was in production in 2006 in Thailand during a military coup, so it seems oddly coincidental that it will open in the US while Thailand is experiencing internal turmoil once again. Plans are still evidently in place for the film to open in Bangkok on Thursday.
The highly-derivative yet strikingly stylish original had a brief theatrical run in the US in early 2002. Since then, the Pang Brothers have been sporadically good, both together and when they've worked on their own, but none of the foregoing gives me a good feeling about the remake or makes me anxious to see it.
How about you? Are you a big enough fan of Cage to ignore everything else and see it for yourself?