Four young boys are kidnapped from their families and forced to work the streets. The boys are soon taken under the wing of a skilful Shaolin Kung Fu master, who teaches them the art of his craft. Years later, the now grown up students learn of the killing of their old master and set out on the road to avenge his death. They discover that working together to seek justice and retribution against the man responsible for their beloved master’s death creates invincibility in all of them.
Martial Arts films were given a much needed game changer shot in the arm in the 1990’s thanks to The Matrix and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. All films tried to replicate those action moments for many years after. It then took a Welshman living in the Far East to take it up a gear again – Gareth Evans’ The Raid is now one of the movies that martial arts film makers are trying to compete with on the global scale. Sadly Bangkok Assassins (or Bangkok Kung Fu to give it its real title) struggles for any footing into an already crowded and much defined genre.
The action scenes are perfectly fine, but it all feels very old hat in terms of styling and choreography. These moments just washed over us in a glaze of non-descript interest. What happened to pushing the boundaries of martial arts films? It’s also come to something that the DVD case is adorned with the words “Choreographed by the stuntman of Tomb Raider and Ong-Bak”. Are we really that desperate to know who gave us these lacklustre efforts? Also the title makes no sense due to assassins being paid to kill people, whereas these four guys are on a revenge mission and nobody is paying them a bean.
Bangkok Assassins actually only works in the incendiary scenes rather than the full on action. The bizarre interplay between the female friends and also the romantic angle that includes one of the boys, who is deaf, barking instructions to another one of the gang, who is blind, whilst driving a car en-route to their showdown is very odd, but it’s also a fun moment. But these fun times are minimal, as we have to sit through several rather tedious and nonsensical females singing pop songs. It’s never truly reasoned why these musical interludes are included instead feeling like we are the crazy ones wondering what these peculiar bursts of songs really mean in the story’s context.
Bangkok Assassins is a film the combines the musical elements of Disney with the martial arts of wuxia, yet none of this works in its favour. Instead it creates a messy action movie with downright bizarre subtexts that just had us scratching our head as to what is meant to be happening.