Bangkok Adrenaline is the sort of movie that makes me appreciate the Scene Selection capability offered by DVDs. It is a disjointed action film featuring characters I don't care about played by actors who seem to care even less. It also doesn't play to its few admitted strengths. For an action flick featuring a limber leading man, it spends an awful lot of time shoving dreadful comedy down our throats. Since director Raimund Huber had the audacity to cast himself as one of the unfunny comic relief characters, I probably shouldn't be too surprised at the outcome.
As the film opens, we encounter our four protagonists Mike (Gwion Jacob Miles), Conan (Conan Stevens), John (Raimund Huber) and Dan (Daniel O'Neill) as they are backpacking through Thailand. After racking up gambling debts to the order of 1 million baht, they find themselves at the mercy of a sadistic gangster. You see, he likes to extract payment by breaking fingers with the going rate being 1000 baht per finger. Since that would still leave the four guys 960,000 baht short he comes up with another plan. He'll keep their passports and give them a week to come up with the money.
With a renewed sense of purpose, the schmucks get down to making some dough. Mike teaches kids martial arts, Conan becomes a wrestler, Dan picks pockets and John becomes a saucy male dancer. As you can imagine, none of these professions are going to rake in large sums of money all that fast. So they do the next best thing. They kidnap the spoilt daughter (Priya Suandokemai) of a rich tycoon (Geoffrey Giuliano) and demand a hefty ransom. Unfortunately for them the tycoon has plans of his own, some of which don't involve getting his daughter back alive. I wonder if the guys will release the girl and fight off armies of goons sent by evil tycoon dad? I wonder if an awkward tacked on romance will blossom between one of the dudes and the whiny girl? I wonder if one of them will assume a missionary position to Bangkok?
There are a few more things to be said about this movie but first let me talk about a much better film. While watching Bangkok Adrenaline, my mind kept wandering to The Big Hit starring Mark Wahlberg. That movie was the story of Mark and his funky bunch of assassins who kidnapped a businessman's daughter with unexpected consequences. It featured a delicious sneering performance by Lou Diamond Phillips and some excellent action set pieces. Most importantly, it had a very specific comedic point of view and it knew how to communicate it. The punch lines were dark, violent and often over the top in a Looney Tunes kind of way. It wasn't a life-changing motion picture event but it accomplished what it set out to do. For that, I remember it fondly.
Although it desperately wants to share some of The Big Hit's DNA, Bangkok Adrenaline is more like the ugly step-sister that nobody wants to take to the prom. Huber's haphazard direction is outdone only by the juvenile screenplay. Scenes start and stop without rhyme or reason. Characters drift through the film as caricatures tossed around by circumstance. Giuliano, as the villain, chows down on so much of the scenery that I was worried he was going to get indigestion. The final deathblow to the film is its insistence on being an action comedy especially since all its attempts at humor fall flat. I guess midget jokes and tied up women wetting themselves just don't do it for me anymore.
With all my griping, you'd think the film didn't have a single redeeming feature. That isn't completely true. Daniel O'Neill displays some real martial arts skills as the timid but skilled fighter of the group. He shows some of Cyril Raffaelli's athleticism and agility along with a fondness for elaborate evasion tactics that would make Jackie Chan proud. Unfortunately, the comparisons end there because he shares none of their charisma or screen presence. Perhaps with time, he will develop his acting chops but for now action junkies can at least enjoy his one on many battles with the faceless flunky brigade.