Nothing to Lose (1+1=0)

Director: Danny Pang
Year: 2002
Starring: Pierre Png, Arissara Wongchalee (Fresh), Yvonne Lim.
Time: 94 minutes

Though only one of the Pang brothers is involved with this film, it still displays their characteristic flair for kinetic style, off kilter colors and a fast moving narrative. The films that the Pang brothers have directed clearly show their Hong Kong background and Hong Kong film influences. Bangkok Dangerous felt very much like a Hong Kong hitman film transferred to Bangkok, The Eye of course takes place in both countries and this film too feels much more Hong Kongish in its attitudes than the Thai films I have seen. Though never particularly gripping and with an ending that felt rushed and anti-climatic, this film still treads some enjoyable Bangkok turf and brings forth a few interesting characters. In some ways it is like sniffing Sassy Girl on gasoline fumes where the Breathless couple turns to crime and murder rather than pranks and whimsy.

Love can start anywhere. Even on a rooftop with the pavement staring you in the face down below. Somchai is up on the roof looking for a final escape from his gambling debts and he spots Go-go teetering on the edge with a similar solution for her problems written on her face. Both decide to eat first and die later and then decide not to pay – why pay when we are as good as dead is their reasoning. After bashing up a car for the joy of it, she takes him to a run down hotel and introduces him to the pleasures of weed and abstinence. Watching Go-go running around in her halter-top, boots and tight shorts makes the abstinence part difficult as hell for Somchai. Soon the cops are after them for a convenience store robbery and then the gamblers are after them both for some unpaid debts. A bloodbath later and they are on the run for their lives.
The film has energy, style, two good performances, some well-shot scenes, but it doesn’t really seem to add up to as much as one would hope. Beneath the visual sheen there isn’t a lot of depth or emotional connection. Where it really seems to fail though is in follow through – after the shoot out one expects the film to simply go into hyper drive but instead it slowly lets the air out and goes out with a whimper instead of a bang. Besides some of the intriguing milieus that the characters traverse – a grungy and dangerous gambling parlor, the seedy hotel – the most enticing aspect to the film is the yowza in your face attitude shown by actress Arissara Wongchalee a.k.a. Fresh. With her assortment of wigs,  her long legs and slightly twisted mind, she is hard to take your eyes off of.

The Thai DVD states that it has English sub-titles but it does not. I was able to see it with subtitles at a showing.

My rating for this film: 6.0


Reviewed by Simon Booth

The Pang Brothers have shot to fame over the past few years with their energetic film-making that seems to revitalise genres that have been flagging in recent years. In particular, Bangkok Dangerous and The Eye have been huge hits. Their background as editors on some of Hong Kong's top action titles clearly shows in their visually kinetic film making style. NOTHING TO LOSE is the solo directorial debut of the less interestingly named half of the twins, Danny Pang.

Somchai meets Go Go on a Bangkok rooftop, where both are planning to make the ultimate jump and escape their problems in life. Somehow they manage to talk each other out of it and go for food instead, where they learn that when you've reached the point where death holds no fear there's nothing left to stop you doing almost anything in life. This starts them off on an adventure full of mayhem, with nothing to lose.

NOTHING TO LOSE has all the visual style of the Pang Brothers other works, with cinematography that owes a lot to Christopher Doyle and MTV. Unfortunately it starts with a bit of a whimper, with some poorly dubbed and terribly cheesy dialogue that makes it look like you're in for an "all style, no brains" experience. Thankfully, the opening proves to be rather a red herring in a film that becomes progressively more complex, unusual and compelling as it goes on. Danny Pang creates a couple of complex characters, and as both story and backstory are revealed we are drawn into an increasingly rich situation and connect more with the protagonists.

The film was introduced at the SF International Film Festival as "a remake of Natural Born Killers", which is one of the more vacuous observations I've heard about a Thai film (why is it at these fests the people that introduce the films always try to compare them to American films anyway?). Certainly there are elements in common, but these become less and less as the film progresses.
The greatest strength of the film is not Danny Pang's writing or visual flair though, it's actress Fresh, who is ravishing, wild and utterly compelling to watch in an all-out performance. Dressed in a sequence of wigs and bold outfits she would leave a lasting impression on any male mind, and the rather geeky Somchai is helplessly in her thrall. Singaporean actor Pierre Png looks good but is rather flat as an actor (which is perhaps appropriate for the role) and suffers a lot from being dubbed into Thai. The supporting cast is good, but everybody is outshone by Fresh  (incidentally, this was her first film role).
NOTHING TO LOSE is a film that transcends its premise and beginnings, and ultimately offers a lot to look at, enjoy and even think about afterwards. It should be a successful film in the west, but the lack of a subtitled home video release will doubtless prevent that for the moment.

Recommended if you get the chance to see it with subtitles.