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September 10, 2008 - Image 5

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The Michigan Daily, 2008-09-10

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The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Wednesday, September 10, 2048 -5A

A real-life Batman

Imagine what he'd look like if he actually did crack.

Bad, even foi

Once-promising
actor slumps through
generic remake of
1999 action film
By JONATHAN HURWITZ
For the Daily
Even if you haven't seen "Bangkok Dan-
gerous," there's a pretty good chance that
you've already seen something a lot like
it.
Danny and Oxide Pang's remake of
their own 1999 Thai action flick, "Bang-
kok Dangerous," is the ultimate generic

A bad guy vs. assassi
sin perched furtively
gun pointed at the fo
sitting in an adjacen
soon learn that thisa
is the first of his fo
the dirty and densec
sistent with the trad
held by most of I
assassins, Joe also f
questions" and "kno
rules along the way.
original stuff.
As the movie pro
film is taken slightly
the typical action m
companionship in a
young adult, a deaf p

action movie. Nicolas an elephant. Joe first
Cage ("National Trea- Yamnarm), a local
sure") plays Joe, a pro- messenger after w
fessional assassin sent Bangkok pickpocketing skills
to Bangkok to complete D plicably leads to Ko
one final, career-defin- angerous Joe's partner-in-crit
ing job. Cage strays away At Showcase meeting.
from the twin brother and Quality 16 He then encount
and flaming motor- Lionsgate puce after a motorcy
cycle that accessorized target, stopping by
his previous onscreen large, mysterious cu
roles. Instead, viewers find his noticeable herein lies just anoti
receding hairline at the crux of the Oscar- film: Joe now has
nominee's part. Like in his other recent, on his arm without
roles, his new hairstyle becomes one of Maybe more origina
the many funny elements throughout the the genre, but just no
film. . At the pharmacy,
"Bangkok Dangerous" begins with a wood-style soul mat
vague familiarity. The opening scene is a in love at first sight
lot like the beginning of "Wanted," anoth- Taiwanese actress C
er assassin film released earlier this year. pharmacy assistant.
LM EVEW
Bittersweet
comeback

n scene starts, assas-
y atop a city building,
rehead of the bad guy
it office building. We
assassination attempt
ur assigned "hits" in
city of Bangkok. Con-
ditional hit man code
Hollywood's baddest
ollows the "don't ask
ow when to get out"
Not exactly the most
gresses, though, the
off the beaten path of
ovie plot as Joe finds
n unlikely trio: a local
harmacy worker and
t meets Kong (Shakrit
whom he hires as his
itnessing his crafty
s. Their trust inex-
ng quickly becoming
:me after this chance
:ers another accom-
cle pursuit of his next
a pharmacy to treat a
t on his shoulder. But
:her problem with the
an unexplained gash
t a serious collision.
al than other films in
ot logical.
Joe meets his Holly-
e, predictably falling
with Fon (played by
harlie Yeung), a deaf

*Cage
Finally, Joe and Fot are shown pet-
ting an elephant on the streets of Bang-
kok, marking the beginning of the movie's
elephant motif, seeking - but failing - to
convey emotion. Kong also comments
later on an elephant picture hanging on
a wall in Joe's house, a picture shown
repeatedly throughout the film. The ele-
phant trunk pointing down in the picture,
Kong informs Joe, is bad luck. Perhaps the
Thai mammals can be understood as the
"danger" in the title's "Bangkok Danger-
ous," but it's quite a stretch.
This is precisely why the movie offers
viewers so little: Even in straying from
the characteristic action plot, the movie
simply cannot be taken seriously. From
training sessions between Joe and Kong
in which their. practice fighting consists
solely of flirtatious hand gestures, to
scenes showing Joe and Fon lovingly hold-
ing hands while simultaneously stroking
the trunk of an elephant, viewers are ulti-
mately left to wonder whether they should
cover their eyes and let Joe and his new
friends have some alone time.
Consistent with the rest of the movie,
the ending is as predictable as a Jerry
Bruckheimer production. Joe tempo-
rary loses the faith of his gal pal, he has a
"larger than assassin" moment where his
morality and a clear view of his profession
collide, etc., etc.
If you're really looking for a Nick Cage
fix, this is probably a good one to miss.
Go home and remember the good days of
something like "Gone in Sixty Seconds"
where Nick actually has his hair. And at
least some of his dignity.

Its only natural, I suppose, that with
the Bush administration nearing
its end, we've been seeing a lot of
films lately about the war against terror-
ism. A lot of politically charged dramas
have been hitting theaters, stuff like "In
the Valley of Elah"
(2007) and "Stop-
Loss" (2008), which
explore the effects
of terrorism and the
war both abroad and
at home.I
But few of those
films made an
impression. As the BRANDON
procession of mid- CONRADIS
dling wannabe-polit- -
ical dramas marched
on, I started to lose hope. Was itpossible
for a film to be released that actually pre-
sented these ideas in a unique and pow-
erful way? For a while, I didn't think so.
Then, out of nowhere, a certain caped
crusader swooped down upon the box
office and changed my mind.
Simply put, if there is any film that
best illustrates the climate of our coun-
tryin the era of terrorism and the Bush
administration, it's "The Dark Knight."
The parallels are obvious. The film's
villain, The Joker (playedby Heath
Ledger), is a terrorist who, in the film's
most disquieting scene, is shown video-
taping one of his murders, leering madly
into the camera, thoroughly proud of
- or oblivious to - the brutality of his
actions. He's a raving mad dog fueled
by a desire most of us couldn't possibly
understand.
Batman, meanwhile, is the authority,
with the thankless task of catching him.
By the end of the film, Gotham City is
against him; he has gone from being the
city's savior to Public Enemy Number
One. One need only look at the trajectory
of Bush and his administration to see the
reference there.
And the film as a whole beautifully
captures the oppression and fear of a
world under terrorism. Only "Se7en"
(1995) can match this film's bleak out-
look. But what makes "The Dark Knight"
so powerful is that, when we look at The
Joker, we see the faces of the many bala-
clava-clad extremists whose images have
become ingrained in our national con-
science; many critics, upon firstseeing
"The Dark Knight," commented on how
"real" the film felt. That's because it is.
I think what's most startling about
this film is how subversive it is. Film,
being a mass medium that transcends
social and cultural boundaries, is the
perfect art form to subtly injectwith
political or social commentary. Unfor-
tunately, most filmmakers don't under-

stand that, and theytend to whack us
repeatedly over the head with their
views - "Stop-Loss" being a perfect
example.
But, while the storyline and visuals
themselves are not subtle, "The Dark
Knight" is imbued with a sense of politi-
cal righteousness that is unusual in a
Hollywood film. I'm sure most people
caught on to the obvious jabs at the
PatriotAct near the end, in which Lucius
Fox (Morgan Freeman) realizes that
Bruce Wayne is monitoring the people of
Gotham in order to catch The Joker. But
how the film's message was interpreted
by those same people maybe a different
story.
Because, really, what is the film say-
ing? Are there other layers we're miss-
ing? If Batman is supposed to be the
administration, then who is Harvey Dent
supposed to be? Is the film saying that
in a world overrun by the lawless, a self-
righteous do-gooder like Dent (cough,
Obama, cough) will be eaten alive? That
the authorities, againsttheir better judg-
ment, need to break the rules in order to
defeat people who don't have rules?
Not a lot in "TDK"
was make believe.
Maybe it was just me, butI interpret-
ed an undercurrent of distinctly conser-
vative ideology runningthrough this.
Then again, maybe it wasjustme.
That said, the film doesn't hold back
on its criticism of the administra-
tion, either. One of the most powerful
moments in the film comes during a
simple exchange between Bruce Wayne
and Alfred on the subject of the Joker:
"Alfred: You crossed the line, first.
You squeezed them (the mob).You ham-
mered them to the point of desperation.
And in their desperation they turned to a
man they didn't fully understand.
Bruce Wayne: Criminals aren't com-
plicated, Alfred. You just have to figure
out what he's after.
Alfred: With all due respect, Sir, per-
haps this is a man that you don'tunder-
stand."
The film's message may be question-
able, but that one exchange rings with
a thundering authority that no other
"political" film in the past decade has
been able to achieve. Who would have
thought it came from a Batman movie?
Conradis thinks "21 Dresses" is a
metaphor for the aftermath of.Katrina.
E-mail him at brconrad@umich.edu.

ARTS IN BRIEF

By HARUN BULJINA
For theDaily
If you grew up in the '90s,
you've probably heard "Bitter-
sweet Sym-
phony." And
yet, if you ask ***
your average
'90s pop lover The Verve
about the Forth
band behind RD
the song, you'll IED
probably get a
lot of puzzled looks. "Some Eng-
lish band,"you might hear. "That
track was big a long time ago.
That's about where the
knowledge of The Verve ends.
The band came out of nowhere
in 1997, hit it big with one of the
decade's great rock singles and
then, like many before them,
were never heard from again..
In reality, things are a little
more complicated. The Verve
have been around since 1992,
when a fully formed EP brought
them the attention of the music
press and a key role in the then-
nascent Britpop movement.
Over the last 15 years, they've
been through two break-ups,
released three critically-ac-
claimed albums and had a
worldwide hit. After lead singer

Richard Ashcroft's solo career
fell flat, The Verve reunited
once again in 2007. Now, with-
out much hoopla, the band has
finally released its comeback
album,Forth. .
So let's begin with the obvi-
ous: This record is not going
to convert the uninitiated.
Sticking to their tried and
true method on past albums of
writing long tracks, The Verve
don't disappoint - the shortest
track lasts over four minutes,
and most of them go well past
six.
This time, Ashcroft and com-
pany unabashedly fall back to
their fuzzed-out space-rock
roots with the final product
ultimately geared toward an
already well-established audi-
one-hit wonder
lives again.
ence. True, many of the pop
sensibilities of Urban Hymns
still emerge from the layers of
guitar, but when they do, it's a
double-edged sword. On one
hand, the "ooh-ahs" and "nah-
nah-nahs" combine with the

Television
New FX show adds to the
tried and true formula of
the macho man series
"Sons of Anarchy"
Wednesdays at 10 p.m.
FX
With the addition of "Sons of Anar-
chy" to its lineup, FX now possesses a
trinity of gritty, macho-man-centered
dramas. And though it may seem like a
stupid idea to carrybthree fundamentally
identical shows, FX execs will probably
be patting themselves on the back in a
few years.
Just like "Rescue Me" and "The

Shield," the protagonist in "Sons," Jax
(Charlie Hunnam, TV's "Undeclared"),
has the type of role - a motorcycle gang
member - that lets him be both badass
and goodhearted. He's tough as nails,
but finds a wayto adhere to a higher code
of morality than those around him. He's
also connected to a cocaine-addicted ex-
wife, a son born ten weeks premature
and a profession that will probably get
him killed. And in spite of all this, he
puts his gang and family before himself.
FX has perfected its use of the multi-
faceted tough guy, so fans of this formula
should flock to "Sons." Moreover, once
"The Shield" - now in its final season
- is gone, "Sons" could help fill the void
left by the network's most acclaimed
series. In this case, three is not one too
many; expect "Sons" to be around for
some time.
DAVE REAP

Stay away from these guys in the park.

swirling harmonies to create
something pretty. On the other,
the album's niceties hardly rock.
If you want to drown in reverb,
you'll like it; if you want some-
thing you can grab onto, you're
out of luck. The edge and drive
of their early singles is largely
and conspicuously absent.
The more structured songs
are therefore the highlights,
with most of them found
together near the beginning of
the tracklist. "Sit and Wonder,"
for instance, sounds uncannily
like The Bends-era Radiohead
with teeth. Lead single "Love
is Noise" is built around a pul-
sating dance-rock rhythm, and
it's a shame the band didn't
explore this direction further."
On the beautifully layered

"I See Houses," a haunting
piano loop provides the song
with direction as it sails under
Ashcroft's serpentine vocals.
For fans of shoegaze, even the
more indulgent sections will
stand out from time to time.
On Forth, the band has craft-
ed a solid album where, in fall-
ingback into their comfort zone,
they give many of their faithful
listeners just what they've been
waiting for. Even casual fans of
the genre might be intrigued, or
at least find the singles compel-
ling. But will the casual Britpop
fan return to this album in the
years tocome like they did with
a track like "Bittersweet Sym-
phony"? Without some existing
emotional attachment to The
Verve, it's doubtful.

DEAR ABBY AIN'T GOT SHIT
ON DAILY ARTS.
Be part of our debut advice column.
Send all your questions to us, and we'll help you out.
E-mail advice@michigandaily.com.

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