Cage plays Joe, a somber hitman visiting Bangkok to complete some jobs for a shady businessman. He hires an errand boy named Kong (Shahkrit Yamnarm) after he sees him steal a wallet on the street. He's mean to his new employee, and even gets set to kill him with a knife. Facing death, Kong beseeches the wise hitman to teach him--so things go from a near-killing to an awkward slap fight with a lot of elbows. When it's over, Joe growls, "That was your first lesson," and the tutelage is on.
During training, Joe imparts some big-time killer wisdom, such as, "Don't pull the trigger ... squeeze it." (Holy crap ... I'd never heard that one before!) Joe's contract killings lead to a big-time government official, which sends Joe into a moment of crisis. We know it's a crisis, because Cage moves around real slow, says little and employs his sad-puppy eyes.
Along the way, Joe meets and falls in love with Fon (Charlie Young), a deaf pharmacist who shares a moment with Joe as she recommends topical ointments. He asks her to dinner, and she accepts, not knowing that he could take out her trachea with a teaspoon, just like that. We know Joe is in love, because Cage moves around real slow, says little and employs his sad-puppy eyes.
After meeting Fon, Joe--clearly starting to hate his profession--starts down on the road to redemption and quits the trade. He also kicks his heroin habit--a habit which I was totally unaware of while watching the movie. Sure, packets of the stuff showed up in his job-assignment packages, but he hardly behaved like a junkie. His moment of quitting comes when he throws a packet into a river. He suffers no withdrawal symptoms, but we can see he's in pain, because Cage moves around real slow, says little and employs his sad-puppy eyes.
Cage is stuck in a rut. Movies like this, Ghost Rider, Next and, oh God, The Wicker Man aren't doing much to advance the Oscar winner's career; in fact, he's damaging his reputation with every mope-faced performance. He's also not helping things much with his choice of hairpieces. In this film, the wig is black and stringy to go with his pale white complexion; he seems to be going for that mid-'90s Trent Reznor look, but the result is more like Christina Ricci circa Addams Family Values. Just shave your head like Willis did, and call it a day!
The film is directed by Oxide Pang Chun and Danny Pang, who are remaking their own Thai film from 1999. In that film, the hitman was deaf and had a hairstyle similar to Cage's, so that at least partially explains the stupid wig. Chun and Pang do a decent job of staging some action scenes, including the final gun battle and a swimming-pool killing sequence. But they employ a murky, muddy look that takes all of the vitality out of Bangkok and makes it look washed out and dull.
Cage needs to give David Lynch, or the Coen brothers, or somebody with substance a call so he can get back in the serious game before he becomes nothing but a joke. It was only six years ago that he started a pretty good roll with Adaptation, Matchstick Men and The Weather Man. He's done decent action-hero work in the past (most notably in Face/Off), but his insistence upon staying in the genre with one lackluster film after another is getting tiresome.