Bangkok Dangerous! What a wonderful phrase! Is it a grammatically-challenged warning? A nickname? A mixed drink? A rare example of a proper noun being used as an adverb? One thing's for sure, it makes for a great curse - "Bangkok dangerous! They towed my car!"

Would that the film were a tenth as deliciously bad as its title, but no, Bangkok Dangerous is just regular bad, a glum and gloomy slapdash thriller with one of the worst scripts of the year, the last desperate gasp of the summer season to drag teenaged asses into theaters with the promise of sexy violence undone by clumsy filmmaking and an especially indifferent turn from Nicolas Cage in full taciturnity.

Cage, apparently sporting the same psuedo-mullet he wore for Next, plays Joe, a master assassin who heads to Bangkok for a series of four jobs, all paid for by the same mysterious figure, Surat (Nirattisai Kaljaruek). Upon arriving, he sets himself up with a Boy Friday, local pickpocket Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm), and falls madly in love with the mute pharmacist Fon (Charlie Yeung), all while killing people who, as he stoicly informs us, are "bad to somebody", whether they're bad in the real world or not.

Not caring whether your target is a good or bad person is one of the four rules that Joe outlines early in the film, in the wildly unsubtle narration that serves in place of dialogue for most of the picture. The others are to never get involved with other people, never leave any trace of your work, and know when to get out of the game. As the film begins, Joe has already decided it's time to get out, and this trip to Bangkok will be his last job before he retires to some hidden corner of the world. It might surprise you to learn that through the course of the movie, he'll more or less abandon the three other rules and thus risk losing everything (though given how eagerly he leaves his fingerprints over nearly every surface in the film, that "never leave a trace" rule doesn't much survive the opening scene).

The least of the problems with Bangkok Dangerous is that it treats the well-worn trope of a tough guy trying to leave the life behind with so little self-awareness or irony. Originality is overrated, and besides, it's a remake (of a film by the same directors, in fact). No, the big problem is how badly that story is executed, from the humiliating montage where Joe and the mute girl fall in love while wandering around the markets of Bangkok and Joe gets to show how sweet he is by playing with an elephant on to the needlessly laden dialogue which tosses around the phrases "good" and "bad" about as often as "the".

That dialogue! You could spend a lifetime slashing apart the vacuuous writing in the film courtesy of Jason Richman. Sometimes it's just really awkward exposition (in the first 20 minutes of the film, Joe voiceovers all of his onscreen actions while explaining how he learned to do these things when he was but a young assassin). More often, it's just random, awful lines. Such as the words (in voiceover, natch) with which Joe enters the city: "Bangkok is corrupt, dirty and dense", and if you're like me, you'd either expect that to lead into a rip-snorting bit of purple noir prose, like "My kind of city", or at the very least for him to explain why Bangkok's corruption, dirtiness and density are significant. But no, after making that observation, Joe shuts up for once in the movie, leaving that unfortunate word "dense" just floating around in the air for endless empty seconds.

I might also complain about the poorness of the characters in the film, but I think "Nic Cage in a movie about an assassin" already does my work for me.

Directed by the Pang brothers, Oxide and Danny, you'd be forgiven for hoping that the film might have at least a bit of stylistic flair to it. These are the men, after all, behind The Eye, a horror film better than it should be, and The Messengers, a horror film worse than it should be given how well it was directed. But Bangkok Dangerous is a messy wreck of a picture, plagued by jerky editing that makes the dramatic scenes hectic and the action scenes inert, and truly ugly cinematography from the brothers' frequent collaborator Decha Srimantra, in that heavily grey-and-blue style so beloved of action movies aiming for that "gritty" feeling; I think that, if that style has not yet jumped the shark, Bangkok Dangerous is surely the film where it does so. Here I only speak of those moments bright enough for the metallic desaturation to even register; more often, the film is too murky to see much of anything - it is, almost beyond debate, the darkest film of 2008, shadowy throughout so that it's sometimes hard to see what you're supposed to see, including the opening titles.

I could spend more energy ragging on the film, but to what end? It's already suffered the indignity of reigning over the worst weekend at the box office since September 2000* as well as being the first #1 film since April, 2007 that couldn't crack $10 million. So my work here is done. Either you didn't see it, or you won't see it, and thus am I rendered superfluous.