Bangkok Dangerous & r & & r & by MARYANN JOHANSON & r & & r & & lt;span class= "dropcap " & L & lt;/span & ook, Nicolas Cage is an assassin, OK? He's tough. And impervious to human emotions. He doesn't care what you think. He doesn't care that you snicker at his long greasy hair. He doesn't even care if you hate this movie, even if he was too scared to show it to film critics before it opened.

So he stalks the rain-slicked, neon-bright streets of seedy Bangkok, trying to look badass and totally unmoved by the cheap hookers and the too-skinny guys trying to hustle tourists and the little ragamuffin urchins selling their cheap pieces of junk to whomever will buy....

What's that? Now he cares? Now he can't help but suddenly pity pathetic little kids? Now he suddenly pays attention to a pretty shop clerk who's nice to him? Now he finds himself taking his local errand boy under his wing, instead of killing the poor jerk once he's done with him? Now he's communing with freakin' elephants, fer Christ's sake? And this makes him reconsider his life?

I'm making Bangkok Dangerous sound more interesting than it actually is. Sorry.

What happened is this: Two brothers named Oxide Pang Chun and Danny

Pang made a movie in their native Thailand in 1999 called Bangkok Dangerous. It was about a deaf-mute hit man, his sidekick, and the woman who kinda loved both of them. It was wildly stylish and just as wildly devoid of human emotion. But you could see that these Pang kids had talent. So of course Hollywood came a-callin', and said, "Come work for us. We'll pay you a shitload of money. All you have to do is sell us your souls." And the brothers said yes.

So now Cage is the hitman. He's not the deaf-mute. This new script -- based on the Pangs' movie but Americanized by Jason Richman, who also wrote the execrable Swing Vote -- transfers the deafness and muteness to pharmacy worker Fon (Charlie Young), because that makes her more vulnerable. Yeah, she can be the perfect tender soft cuddly little sacrifice. Because who doesn't love seeing sweet innocence killed by the machinations of Hollywoodized iniquity?

Also, Cage can't be silent, because then how could he regale us with his unending inner dialogue -- shared with us in tedious voiceovers -- about how his life is changing now that, you know, he sees elephants as beautiful and stuff? Joe's introspection isn't merely dreary, but, as a bonus, it's also obvious. When he wonders to himself, "Why didn't I kill him?" -- him being Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), the local help, whom Joe's own rules demand be eliminated at the end of a job -- only someone who'd never seen a movie ever would fail to supply the next line: "When I looked into his eyes, I saw myself."

There's nothing menacing about Joe -- which is a problem, seeing as how he's supposed to be a heartless hired killer -- but it's a bigger problem that all the creative energy has been sucked out of the Pang brothers' work. Any hint of the talent their 1999 flick demonstrated is entirely absent here. It has been replaced by a jarring, uneven tone and turns of events so absurd that you'd laugh at them. That is, if you could be bothered to react that much. (Rated R)

Vandal Summer Cinema Series

Fridays, Sat., Aug. 21 and Thu., Aug. 26. Continues through Aug. 20
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