Directed and co-written by Raimund Huber with co-writer/star Conan Stevens, Bangkok Adrenaline is the epitome of a bad action movie. The plot, such as it is, follows four friends - Mike (Gwion Jacob Miles), Conan (Conan Stevens), John (Raimund Huber) and Dan (Daniel O'Neill) - who have amassed some pretty sizeable gambling debts while taking a backpacking trip through Thailand. Owing money to Thai mobsters is never a good thing, especially when you can't repay it, which is the very situation that these four men find themselves in. The gangster in question is a sadistic type who wants to break one of their fingers for every 1,000 baht that they owe, which won't even come close to paying off the one million baht that they owe him.
As such, our gangster comes up with an alternate idea - they have seven days to get the money they owe him, and leave their passports with him as collateral. This ensures that they'll stick around in case they can't come up with the money in time, and that if that is what happens, that he'll be able to find them. With the clock ticking, the four friends do everything that they can to raise the money - one teaches local kids martial arts, one takes up wrestling, one steals wallets and one works as a male stripper - but there just isn't enough time for them to make the money they need that way. With no other option, they kidnap the foxy daughter of a local businessman and hold her for ransom, unaware that the father isn't really all that concerned about getting her back in the first place, in fact, he's only too happy to send in his crew of thugs to kill these guys and maybe see if she gets caught in the crossfire.
First things first - if Bangkok Adrenaline had played it straight and focused on being a hard action film, it probably could have worked. The plot is basic to be sure but it does offer up a fair amount of opportunity for the film to launch into ass kicking mode and when it does, well, the fight scenes are actually quite impressive. It's a shame then that the movie wants to mix in a lot of really bad comic relief in between (and sometimes during) the action scenes. The humor in this film is what sinks it the most, as it just feels completely out of place and on top of that, it's not really very funny.
Adding insult to injury is the fact that the filmmakers feel the need to throw in all manner of Parkour scenes just for the sake of having them in the film. Just as the plot starts to get moving, they'll basically have the characters stop dead in their tracks and bust out some moves. This was presumably to keep the movie exciting but it winds up completely shattering any tension or plot development that might have been blossoming. The fight scenes occur at such regular intervals that you get the impression the two writers built their script around some ideas they had for fight scenes and not the other way around and the results are stilted and awkward.
As far as the performances are concerned, the four main actors are pretty obnoxious. Now, they were written that way from the looks of things so you can't necessarily fault them for that (except in the case of Conan Stevens who wrote and acted) but it's always easier to get into an action film if you like the heroes and that doesn't happen here. We don't care about what happens to these people. At all. The villains are no more impressive, playing things completely by the book and adding more dramatic hahaha's than they probably needed to. On top of that, the script throws in so many odd, random bits that you leave the picture scratching your head. Why is the auto shop they wind up at run and operated only by midgets? Why does the evil business tycoon touch his daughter as if she were a kitty cat or a puppy dog? Why does everyone keep fighting for no apparent reason? Did that lady really need to pee on camera? If you think about this movie even for a minute, your head starts to hurt.
Bangkok Adrenaline is presented in its original 1.85.1 widescreen aspect ratio in a 1080p AVC encoded transfer. Colors are a bit all over the place, but this looks to have more to do with the way that the movie was shot than with the transfer itself, as are black levels. Sometimes the darker hues are nice and inky deep, other times they look more like dark grey. Detail is generally very good in close up shots but can be very erratic in medium and long distance shots. Flesh tones generally look okay and there aren't any obvious problems with compression artifacts, but this isn't a perfect transfer. A decent one, sure, but it won't floor you.
The DTS-HD 5.1 Master Audio track that's on this Blu-ray release doesn't have as much rear channel action as you'd expect a surround track to have, but aside from that it sounds pretty good. There are instances where the rears spring to life during some of the fight scenes but they could have been better used to provide some atmospherics. With the bulk of the sound coming from the front of the mix, it should be said that the dialogue generally sounds nice and crisp and the various punches and kicks thrown throughout the film have a good bit of smack to them. Bass response is just okay, it could have been better, and the score isn't as punchy as you might want it to be in certain scenes, but overall things sound fine here. Subtitles are offered in English and Spanish.
Aside from a menu and chapter stops, the only extra on the disc is a collection of behind the scenes footage presented without much in the way of context, it's basically just some fly on the wall footage that shows the cast and crew doing their thing on set. We get a peek at some of the fight scenes, which will be of marginal interest to some, but this is pretty disposable.
Bangkok Adrenaline looks decent and sounds decent but is so poorly put together, choppily edited and haphazardly written that it's hard to get much out of this one. Image's Blu-ray release doesn't offer much in the way of supplements to help round the package out, so it's pretty easy to skip this one unless you absolutely need to see every Thai martial arts film ever made. The fight scenes are cool, but the film offers nothing else of interest.
Ian lives in NYC with his wife where he writes for DVD Talk, runs Rock! Shock! Pop!. He likes NYC a lot, even if it is expensive and loud.