As a wise man — or was it Murray Head? — once sang, “One night in Bangkok and the tough guys tumble / Can’t be too careful with your company.” What a soothsayer! It’s like he predicted the entirety of “Bangkok Adrenaline” all the way back in 1984!
This Thai actioner finds four friends — martial arts instructor Mike, masked fighter Conan, dreadlocked John and pickpocket Dan — traveling to Bangkok for a good time. Literally, about five lines of dialogue are uttered before the main plot comes to the forefront, with the guys in way over their heads after a night of gambling.
They owe 1 million baht to the mob boss who runs the game. For comparison’s sake, he cuts off one finger for every 1,000 baht owed. Because they don’t have that many digits among them, but claim to have rich parents, the guys plead for the kingpin to give them a week to get his money. He accepts.
Rather than flee the country, they hatch a “genius” plan to kidnap the hot daughter of a billionaire and hold her for ransom. Using sleepy-time gas, they knock out all the guards in the sprawling mansion and swipe her. Here’s the kicker, shades of “Ruthless People“: Her father really doesn’t want her back.
In his defense, she’s kind of a bitch.
So much kicking ensues — the kind where powder explodes with every point of contact.
“Bangkok Adrenaline” has one thing going for it: some terrific martial-arts sequences in which our hedonistic heroes bust out their spinning Tarzan jujitsu. Taking cues from Culture Club, they’ll tumble for ya, sometimes in tandem, which is a marvel to watch, if not exactly realistic for an impromptu fight. These guys are amazing acrobats, which is why the occasional sped-up camera is not at all needed (not to mention all too obvious, much like the setting of the ever-present abandoned warehouse).
But the story is slathered with leaden comedy, offsetting any chance of greatness. I’m never looking for intricacy in martial-arts films, but the actors don’t exude an ounce of natural charm among them to pull off a single bit of levity, like Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Donnie Yen or Tony Jaa. Instead, they struck me as amateurish.
And then at the end, it hit me: They’re also the screenwriters and director. Yep, it’s a first-at-bat vanity project. Perhaps they’ll get better with subsequent efforts, because this is no shot of adrenaline, but more like a gummy vitamin.
Nice Thai, guys … er, make that “try.” —Rod Lott