He is one of the most versatile and prolific actors in Hollywood, but Nicolas Cage has also made some dubious decisions that have cost him dearly. One of his biggest mistakes was the 2008 remake of Bangkok Dangerous, a Thai action thriller that he co-produced and starred in.
The film was based on the 1999 debut of the Pang Brothers, a pair of visionary filmmakers who created a stylish and original story about a deaf mute assassin working in the seedy underworld of Bangkok. The film was a hit in Asia and gained a cult following in the West.
Cage, who was a fan of the film, bought the remake rights with his production company, Saturn Films, which he co-owned with his manager Norman Golightly. He hired the Pang Brothers to direct the film and cast himself as Joe, the ruthless hitman who travels to Bangkok to kill four targets for a brutal crime boss, Surat.
But instead of staying faithful to the source material, Cage and his collaborators decided to make several changes that diluted the film’s essence and appeal. They gave Joe a voice and a backstory, added a romantic interest with a deaf mute pharmacist, Fon, played by Charlie Yeung, and turned Joe’s local helper, Kong, played by Shahkrit Yamnarm, into his protégé.
The result was a bland and boring film that lacked the original’s grit and inventiveness. The film also suffered from poor editing, direction, and cinematography. Cage’s performance was wooden and uninspired, as he narrated the film as if it were “the Saigon of Apocalypse Now or the Los Angeles of Chinatown”, according to Screen Daily.
The film was a colossal flop, grossing only $42 million against a $45 million budget and receiving scathing reviews from critics. It also spelled doom for Saturn Films, which went bankrupt after the film’s release and faced several lawsuits from creditors for unpaid debts.
Cage also faced personal financial woes, as he owed millions in taxes and had to sell many of his properties and assets. His career also took a nosedive, as he starred in several low-budget and poorly received films in the following years.
Cage later confessed that he regretted making Bangkok Dangerous and blamed himself for its failure. He said: “I think I made a mistake with Bangkok Dangerous. I think I should have played that character as a deaf mute. I think it would have been more interesting.”
He added: “I think I got scared because I thought people would say ‘Oh he’s doing another gimmick’. But I think it would have been more honest. And I think it would have been more real.”