The Thais have a pretty strong tradition for cool martial arts action movies, the Baa Ram Ewe movies particularly, and the producers of Bangkok Assassins are trying to continue that tradition, with a little something extra to spice things up. That extra spice is the addition of a teen heart throb, young romance angle, and it doesn't entirely mesh seamlessly.
The film follows the lives of four young men: Pong, Na, Ga and Chi. All four have been abducted by a scurrilous gang that forces them to work as crippled beggars. In punishment for running away, among other things, Pong's tongue is cut out, Ga is deafened by blows to the ears, Chi has his eyes gouged out, and Na is beaten on the skull, causing mental defects. An old monk, known only as The Master, rescues the boys from captivity, and takes them to live with him and his daughter Gorya, all the while teaching them his secrets.
Fifteen years later, the kids are mostly grown up. Gorya is in college and trying to break into pop music, though she lacks talent. Pong travels around Thailand listlessly, flirting with girls, trying to forget the prostitute mother he was taken from oh so many years ago. Ga and Chi spend their time tracking down the gang that abducted them as children, with little success. And Na just pesters the Master to teach him the skills of his order, though he shows no aptitude. There is unrequited love, fallings out, shirtless battles on rooftops, and all sorts of teenage, angsty drama. But all that changes when evil monkey men kill The Master, on the orders of a mysterious criminal figure. After much intrigue, a few fight scenes, and yes more drama, the five friends have their climactic showdown with the evil overlord.
There's really not much technically wrong with Bangkok Assassins. The fight scenes (though they aren't numerous) are well staged and interesting. The performances are good. The sets, costumes, etc. are all better than competent. This is a slickly produced film. The problem lies in the admixture of the kung fu and teen angst genres, which don't gel all that well. One supposes it is a play for a broader audience, but all it manages to do is to turn off the biggest fans of martial arts cinema, and probably confuse the readers of Tiger Beat who might have wandered into the theater. The action, while competent, isn't audacious or stunning or original. And a lot more time is spent on talking about feelings, and working out who exactly someone should be in love with.
It isn't really an action film, and it isn't really a teen romance film, and it's not a successful hybrid of both. This mushiness of direction and tone, along with awkward comedy that doesn't quite work, is the main downfall of Bangkok Assassins. While technically nearly perfect, as a whole experience, it leaves a little to be desired. Rent it.
Video is 2.35:1 widescreen, and looks quite good. The image is bright and clear, with rich colors and lots of fine detail. With the exception of some very mild grain from time to time, there aren't really any issues.
Audio is available in Dolby digital 5.1 channel Thai and English, with English and Spanish subtitles. It sounds very good as well, with no hiss or other problems audible. The English dubbing is the standard slightly goofy reading that one usually gets.
Unfortunately, the only extras included are a pretty cool red band trailer for Bangkok Assassins itself, along with trailers for Triad Wars, The Sword Identity and Empire of Assassins.
Bangkok Assassins looks and sounds very nice, and it's difficult to point out any specific non-story area in which the film fails. However, it can't decide what it wants to be: an action film or a teen romantic comedy. As a result, it's a bit aimless and emotionally unsatisfying, and unlikely to please either of its target audiences.