The emotional pendulum flies off the hinge when an assassin gets it on with the man he’s supposed to kill in “Bangkok Love Story.” Helmer Poj Arnon’s meld of crime actioner and gay romance is pretty bad, scriptwise, but inside its overwrought account of heretofore straight guys dealing with coming-out confusion there’s a core that will connect with many gay viewers. A modest success locally, and destined for an all-stops tour of the queer cinema circuit, opener of this year’s Hong Kong Lesbian & Gay fest is skedded for mid-2008 release in North America via specialised distrib TLA.
A radical departure from his ditzy comedies “Spicy Beautyqueen of Bangkok” and “Cheerleader Queens,” Arnon’s genre hybrid reps a laudable if indulgent attempt to invest gay-themed Thai cinema with characters other than drag acts and mincing fairies. Result is no “Brokeback Mountain,” but it’s a start.
Introducing himself in v.o., ruggedly handsome hitman Make, aka Cloud (Rattanabunlung Tosawart), says he’s tired of the game and wants out. The only reason he kills is to support his AIDS-afflicted mother (Utumporn Silapran) and HIV-positive brother Mork, aka Fog (Weeradit Srimalai).
Flicking the eternal “one last job” switch, narrative finds Cloud ordered to eliminate Eit, aka Stone (Chayawart Sang Thong), a good-looking guy who’s about to be married. Subtitles reveal nothing about the target’s occupation and only hazy details of why he’s in the firing line, leaving viewers to take Cloud on trust when he refuses to pull the trigger and turns the gun on his bosses.
Taking a bullet in the getaway, Cloud is nursed at his rooftop pad by Stone, whose eyes soon start lingering on the groggy patient’s buff physique. Attraction turns to consummation in a steamy bathtub scene, leaving Stone convinced he’s found true love and Cloud in angry denial.
With thriller aspects relegated to occasional visits by incompetent henchmen and get-even plotting by Stone’s horrified fiancee, Sai, aka Sand (Chatcha Rujinanoun), pic steams ahead with enough melodrama to make Douglas Sirk look like Ozu. To a score big on heavenly female vocals and insistent violins, the lovers engage in a stormy and repetitive series of make-ups and breakups, ending with a “Magnificent Obsession”-like finale set 25 years in the future.
Amid general production overkill, credible thesps Tosawarat and Sang Thong deliver some passages of real warmth and sensitivity as Stone encourages Cloud to open his heart. Emotional clout in these rare quiet moments suggests that, with more delicate handling overall, pic could have soared.
Lenser Tiwa Moeithaisong’s pinup-worthy flesh tones and swirling wide-angle vistas of rainy-season Bangkok dominate a slick tech package. Credited with both production design and art direction duties, helmer Arnon turns Cloud’s open-air digs into a picture of shabby chic.