Bangkok dangerous

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English Department, Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta

Address: Jl. Teratai Putih Raya No. 11a, blok 27 RT: 001 RW: 005 Jakarta Timur 13460;

Mobile: 08999.897619; Email:

Akun, S.pd., M.Hum
English Department, Bina Nusantara University, Jakarta


The purpose of this research is to analyze how the transformation that occurs in man can be understood by finding out the main character, the characterization, the physical setting, social setting, metaphorical setting and theme. In addition, this research also discusses five codes from Roland Barthes. This research analyses a movie entitled “Bangkok Dangerous” by using Roland Barthes’ five codes. This research uses library research, which is included in qualitative research as the research method. The result of this research shows that the main character undergoes transformations since there are contradictory cultures that cause some internal conflicts to occur in the main character. This research proves that by finding the different cultures, eventually produce some binary oppositions has become the theme of the movie. (M)

Key words: transformation, men, perspective, Bangkok, Roland Barthes

Tujuan penelitian adalah untuk mengetahui bagaimana transformasi yang terjadi dalam diri laki-laki dapat dipahami dengan mencari tahu tokoh utama, penokohannya, latar fisik, latar sosial latar metaforis dan tema. Selain itu, penelitian ini juga membahas lima kode dari Roland Barthes. Penelitian ini menganalisis film berjudul Bangkok Dangerous dengan menggunakan lima kode dari Roland Barthes. Penelitian ini menggunakan studi kepustakaan, yang termasuk dalam penelitian kualitatif sebagai metode penelitian. Hasil penelitian ini menunjukkan bahwa tokoh utama mengalami transformasi karena adanya budaya yang bertentangan yang menyebabkan beberapa konflik internal terjadi pada dirinya. Penelitian membuktikan bahwa dengan menemukan budaya yang berbeda, akhirnya menghasilkan beberapa oposisi biner yang telah menjadi tema film ini. (M)

Kata kunci: perubahan, laki-laki, persepsi, Bangkok, Roland Barthes


Every human undergoes transformation. Transformation usually happens when someone finds something or even meets other people. Such changes can occur to anyone, including men, where men usually known as a person that is independent and has a power. However, there is much of story which tells that men undergo change when they meet and get to know the women. Then, the story is poured in a form of literature. Literary work is the result of being written based on author’s feeling (Gill, 1995).

Nonetheless, unfortunately, sometimes people just focus on the results of a literary work, so they do not know the reason why the literature is made. This is the reason why Ferdinand de Saussure did examination through the fields of linguistics, so then, theory of structuralism emerged and evolved to the present. In addition, besides Ferdinand de Saussure, Roland Barthes also one of the researchers who are famous since he analyzed a literary work by using structuralism thus he found five critical code, which are the proairetic code, hermeneutic code, cultural code, semic code and symbolic code. He appeared through S/Z or five codes theory that he used to analyze narrative text to find the “system” in making the text. In addition, Roland Barthes emphasized the structure of the text without eliminating the sense of the text itself. Structuralism is a theory that should be linked with other elements. Basically, in the literature there are two elements, which are elements of intrinsic and intrinsic elements. Intrinsic elements are the plot, point of view, character, setting, and theme, while structuralism is included in the extrinsic elements (Barry, 2009).
This study uses the theory of structuralism to find and examine the background of changes in a person. This study examines the changes that are experienced by a man in a literary work by analyzing the changes through his characterization, setting and theme of the literary work. This study is expected to find out how a man who experiences a change can be understood through his characterization based on the differences in cultural backgrounds and themes that give some effects to the man’s personalities.
This study uses a media, which is a movie, entitled “Bangkok Dangerous”, which released in 2008, with the main character was played by Nicholas Cage. This movie is a “recycled” movie after the previous one, was released in 1999. This movie is directed by Oxide Pang brothers named Chun and Danny Pang. Besides this movie, Pang brothers also directed several horror movies, which are The Eye (2002) and Ab-normal Beauty (2004). In short, this movie told about a man who worked as an assassin. However, when he was asked to kill some targets in Bangkok, he met a deaf-mute woman in the pharmacy. From that moment, the man fell in love with the deaf-mute woman. Nonetheless, unfortunately, when their relationship was getting a serious stage, a secret was revealed; the man was an assassin. At the end of the story, they broke up and the man committed suicide.
This study is conducted to examine the main issues is how the transformation can occur in humans can be understood through the characterization of the characters in this movie, and how the physical setting, social setting and metaphorical background influence the story line in this movie, what the theme of this movie is and how five codes can be applied in this movie. The scope of this research will be focused on the movie entitled Bangkok Dangerous (2008). In addition, the limitation of this research will be focused on the characters, setting and theme. Then, these elements will be analyzed by relating them to the theory of structuralism, which is five code of Roland Barthes.
This study aims to determine the changes that occur in men through reviewing the characters and their characterizations, find out the background of physical, social background and metaphorical setting in this movie. In addition, this study also discusses proairetic code, hermeneutic code, cultural code, semic code and symbolic code. Based on the analysis of the character, setting and five codes, the theme of this movie can be found. The function of this study is to tell the reader how the transformation that occurs in men can be understood by looking at the characterization of the characters, setting and theme of the movie. In addition, this study also provides clear explanations about the implementation of the five codes in this movie.
To help this study, this study uses some previous studies that used to enrich the analysis. There are two studies that had previously been performed by David Lim and Dewa Agung Ayu Nyoman Rai Sita, in which topics that they had in common with this study. The first study was written by David Lim (2012), entitled “Value of Equality through Michael Jackson’s Black or White Lyric and Video Analyzed through Roland Barthes’s Structuralism”. This study used structuralism to find out the background of discrimination in society through an analysis of the song that is sang by known singer named Michael Jackson, entitled Black or White. This song was quite popular and the song told clearly about racism and discrimination. This study also used library research as a research method. The purpose of this study was to find out why racists could happen and to know what the singer wanted to say about racism through the song.
The second study was written by Dewa Agung Ayu Nyoman Rai Sita (2012) entitled “A Study of Oscar Wilde Lady Windermere’s Fan as A Satire of Victorian Life Using Structuralism”. This study also used the theory of structuralism to find out the background of class differences that occur in the community. The class difference was divided by the presence of upper class and the lower class. Class differences were analyzed through a play that was created by Oscar Wilde, entitled Lady Windermere Fan. In addition, the author wanted to know more the relationship between people as a satire which created discrimination that occurs during the Victorian era. The research method used is library research. The purpose of this study was to answer the problems that have been mentioned in the chapter one, is to know the code of Roland Barthes in drama and to find out how life in the Victorian era in which insinuated some problems, such as morality, behavior and extortion.
Character is an important figure in the movie, because the figure represents a person who is created through the imagination of the author. DiYanni (2001) states “characters are the imaginary people that writers create, sometimes identifying with them, sometimes judging them” (p.55). Based on the role, there are two types of characters, namely the main characters and minor characters. The main character has a significant role in which he dominated the story. Meanwhile, a minor character is a figure that supports the main character so as to produce an interesting storyline. There are also several classifications of characters in their development, the changing character and the character does not change. This classification can be considered as characterization. Characterization is representing how the authors characterize the characters in the story. The figures are divided into two characters, which are round and dynamic character. Round character is a character that has the potential to change. Meanwhile, the dynamic character is a character that appears to get a lot of changes in her personality and point of view. Instead, figure that cannot change is known as flat and static character. Flat character is a character that has a personality. Furthermore, static character is one that cannot be changed from the beginning to the end of the story.
Setting is included in important part because setting makes things happen in a movie. According DiYanni (2001), “this place or location of a story's action along with the time in which it occurs is its setting” (p.61). Setting is divided into three types; namely physical setting, social setting and metaphorical setting. Physical setting is a background that shows the actual place. Social setting, according to Gill (1995) is, “the customs, beliefs and rules of behavior that give identity to a society” (p.148). Metaphorical setting is “the atmosphere, mood and feel of the story” (Gill, 1995, p.148). Furthermore, the theme is the result of the main idea is the reason for the author to make a story. According to Kennedy & Giola (2005), the theme is whatever general idea or insight the entire story reveals” (p.212).
Barry (2009), structuralism emerged in France in 1950 after the movement of liberal humanism. Structuralism emphasizes the background of the object. Tyson (2006) states “structuralists believe that our perceptions of world result from the conceptual framework that is an innate feature of human consciousness. We don’t discover the world; we “create” it according to innate structures within the human mind” (p.214). In the development of structuralism, it is supported by the three main characters, namely Ferdinand de Saussure, Claude Levi-Strauss and Roland Barthes.
There are five codes are generated by Roland Barthes, namely proairetic code, hermeneutic code, cultural code, semic code and symbolic code. Proairetic code is a sequence of actions that can be seen from the plot of the story. The second code is the hermeneutic code. Barry (2009) explains that the hermeneutic code creates tension by creating a narrative the reader to ask some questions that raises the reader’s curiosity and finally, they try to find out more by wondering what happens next in action. The third is the cultural code that is common knowledge. Semic code is code that knows the meaning of another by finding the right name in the background, such as place names and character names. The last is a symbolic code which consists of oppositions, such as day and night, man and woman.


Research method that used by this research was library research, which belongs to qualitative research. This research enriches the analysis by finding some information in the form of theories, journals and articles that were found through library and Internet. The study used the theory of characters, setting and theme by DiYanni (2001), Arp, Johnson & Perrine (2005), Gill (1995) and Kennedy & Giola (2005). Then, this research also used the theory of structuralism and five codes according to Barry (2009) and Barthes (1974).


  1. Characters and characterizations

In the analysis, this study firstly analyzes the intrinsic elements, namely character and characterization, setting and theme. In parts of the characters, there are three characters, namely Joe as the main character. He is main character since this movie mostly tells about him. This movie shows him as a cold, ruthless, and heartless man. Additionally, he is also found as a round character because of the internal conflict that occurs inside him so that he undergoes some changes in his personality. The changes that are undergone by Joe are firstly, Joe becomes nice to the others. It can be seen from the relationship between Joe and Kong. Joe treats Kong nicely, whereas in the beginning, Joe treats Kong badly. Furthermore, Joe can fall in love with a woman, named Fon. Joe meets her in pharmacy. Joe loves her at the first sight. Then, Joe approaches her by inviting her to go out together. By seeing those, it can prove that Joe undergoes transformation, which is from the bad one to be a good one.

Meanwhile, Fon and Kong are a minor character and their character as well as flat since they do not show any significant change in this movie. Fon is a deaf-mute woman that makes Joe falls in love. This movie shows Fon as a caring, friendly and nice woman. Additionally, Kong is a native man that works to Joe as being messenger. At first, Kong is treated badly by Joe. However, gradually, Kong is treated nicely by Joe. It is because Joe feels Kong has same personality with him. This movie shows Kong as a caring and loyal man.

  1. Settings

Furthermore, this study analyzes settings that related to the five codes. In the setting, there are some parts that have to be analyzed; namely the physical setting, social setting and metaphorical setting. In a physical setting, there are two categories that should be explained, is a place, which is divided into two regions; Prague and Bangkok, and then this study explains the time background when this movie is taken. Prague is Joe’s first place where he shows his personality. Then, Bangkok becomes an important place since Joe shows his changes. As an example, pharmacy becomes an important place for Joe since this place is where Joe and Fon meet and Joe falls in love with her.

Moreover, in a social setting, there are also some important parts that need to be explained; those are values ​​of eastern and western cultures, customs and beliefs. Eastern cultures are represented by Kong and Fon. Meanwhile, western cultures are represented by Joe.
In a metaphorical setting, there are two points that are described; firstly is the atmosphere. This movie gives an ironic atmosphere. It can be seen from the relationship between Joe and Fon, in which they love each other but they must break up since Joe never tell the truth about him. Because of that, Fon is disappointed and she decides to leave Joe. The second is a symbol that is shown by this movie. This movie uses the club to symbolize bad place and suitcases to symbolize a closed communication.

  1. Theme

This study also found two major themes that became the main idea of the movie; firstly is behind every man is ruthless, lays the soft heart. This theme can be seen from the relationship between Joe and Kong, in which in the beginning, Joe never treat Kong nicely, but gradually, they can become good friends.

Secondly is crime and love affairs are fragile mix. This theme can be seen from the relationship between Joe and Fon, in which Joe and Fon actually love each other, but unfortunately, Joe works as an assassin, so he works to kill some people. This matter makes Fon feels disappointed of Joe since Joe never tell her the truth. Because of that, their relationship breaks up.

  1. Five Codes of Roland Barthes

Furthermore, in the second part of this study is analyzing the movie by using the theory of structuralism with regarding to the five codes which is found by Roland Barthes. Structuralism is the study of the structure. The five codes are the proairetic code, the hermeneutic code, the cultural code, the semic code and the symbolic code.

In the proairetic code, the code is focused on the indication of the action that will happen next by looking through the scenes and dialogues in the movie. There are seven examples that contain the code; the first is when Kong is on the road after picking up the suitcase in the club, there is a traffic light that is showing up red light. This contains proairetic code because there is something that can be indicated as an action. Kong probably stops his motorbike because of a red light. However, the fact is Kong prefers not to stop. He passes the red light. It is because he has been warned by Joe to no come late in delivering the important suitcase or he does not get paid.
The second is when Kong advises Joe about painting elephants, in which in the painting, elephant’s nose points down which means bad luck. This contains proairetic code since after Kong advices Joe, there will be an action or decision that is done by Joe. Joe may believe in what Kong says. He can throw away the painting, but the fact is Joe decides not to believe Kong. He seems does not care with the painting. However, gradually, Joe believes in Kong when he is getting closer with Fon. Joe shows his believe by changing the position of the painting in order to get fortune.
The third is when Kong asks Joe to be his teacher; Kong comes to Joe with wounded face. Kong gets some hit from some people when Kong wants to deliver the suitcase to Joe. Because of that, Kong knows about Joe and he asks Joe to teach him. This contains proairetic code since after Kong asks Joe to teach him, Joe gives a response that can be indicated as an action. Initially, Joe refuses it and he wants to kill Kong since Kong has known about him. However, in a sudden, Joe cancels his intention. Actually, Joe has a reason, which is he feels Kong is the same as him. Thus, he accepts it and becomes Kong’s teacher.
The fourth is when Joe invited Fon to dinner together; Joe seems falling in love with Fon. Therefore, he comes to approach her. This contains proairetic code since there will be a decision that is taken by Fon after Joe tells his intention. Fon may refuse or accept the offer, but the fact is Fon accepts the offer. They have dinner together. After that, Joe and Fon often spend time together.
The fifth is when Kong is under the threat since he is helping the dancer, Aom. Kong and the dancer are in the relationship. Thus, when the dancer calls him to come, Kong comes without any suspicion. However, when Kong turns back, there are some people who want to hurt him. Kong can defend until in a sudden; Aom appears with wounded face and shouts his name. Aom is threatened by the confidant of Joe’s boss. This contains proairetic code since it shows the action that is done by Kong after Aom calls him. Kong perhaps still beat up the people who want to hurt him, but the fact is Kong realizes that he and Aom are under threat from the Joe’s boss gangster. Thus, Kong decides to stop and he even volunteers himself to be beaten in order to help Aom.
The sixth is when Joe hesitates to kill the last target since he remembers the words that Kong says about his last target, in which Kong says that his last target is famous; all Thai people like him. The proairetic code is shown through the action or the decision that is taken by the Joe. Joe has been prepared to kill his last target, but the fact is Joe cancels his intention. He precisely becomes a target. Then, he runs away.
The last one is when Joe runs away after he fails to kill his target. He is chased by polices. The proairetic code is shown when Joe goes back to his house to take his passport. It can be assumed that Joe wants to leave Bangkok, but when his house is approached by some people who want to kill him, he changes his purpose; he decides to rescue Kong.
Furthermore, in the hermeneutic code, there are six examples that contain some questions that make the reader or the audience feels curious, so they wonder what will happen next. The first question appears in the narration that is spoken by Joe when he tells about his work. The readers will be curious what the job of Joe is. The second question arises when Kong is talking to the tourists, the third question arises when Joe walks in the bazaar, the fourth question arises when Joe sees his target through the photographs, the fifth question arises when Joe asks heroin to his boss, and the sixth question arises when Joe is holding a knife.
Then, in the cultural code, there are five general knowledge, which is associated with the movie; the first is about Bangkok as a center of crime, while Bangkok is the capital city of Thailand. Bangkok is included in the largest city in Asia, as well. However, Bangkok is also known as the central of crime. It turns out that Bangkok has been the best place for the gangsters to carry out the actions, such as illegal transactions for trafficking women, drugs and weapons. It is because Bangkok is a city that is geographically located very strategically, thus, it make easier for the gangsters and mafia to build a networking between each other. In addition, Bangkok is also a country that does not have a strict law1. Therefore, Joe comes to Bangkok to kill people.
The second is about Thai boxing as a major sport of Thailand. Thai boxing is one of the sports in Thailand, which is usually known as MuayThai. MuayThai is favorite sport in Thailand. The history of MuayThai comes from Thailand in the past, in which MuayThai used to face war between kingdoms. Thus, MuayThai became as one of the military skills at that time. Therefore, MuayThai is greatly appreciated. Nonetheless, gradually, because MuayThai is favored by many people, then everyone has desire to learn it, thus MuayThai becomes community sport. Eventually, MuayThai competition is held in the ring to determine who is strong. From this competition, some people use MuayThai to get money by providing betting event2. It can be seen when Joe asks heroin to his boss, his boss is watching MuayThai.
The third is about the elephant as a symbol of Thailand. Elephants become a symbol of power and purity. It is because these animals previously are only owned by the royal. However, unfortunately, nowadays, elephants are not valued as in ancient times. The fact is these animals now used by most people for getting profit, such as most elephants are used to carry heavy items and used to be entertainment in circus. Additionally, some elephants are also used to become a beggar3. It can be seen when Joe and Fon are hanging out together, suddenly, elephant approaches them and Fon gives the elephant some bananas.
The fourth is about dating in the Thai culture. In Thailand, Parents will ensure his daughter is with the right person by asking the occupation. It is because, eastern culture, especially Thai culture still believes that a man should earn money and give some salary to the wife4. Therefore, when Joe comes to Fon’s house, her grandmother asks Joe’s occupation.
The last is about the Buddha as the majority religion in Thailand. In Thailand, there are a lot of places that can be indicated as the temples. It is because temples are considered as holy places, in which people can come to worship the Buddha and get blesses from the monks5. Because of that, Fon invites Joe to come to temple for praying.
In semic code, there are three names that can be analyzed; firstly is the title of the movie “Bangkok Dangerous”, Fon and the Caribbean. Fon is the name of female character, which literally means rain and this name also describes the characterization of the woman's character. Then, literally, the Caribbean is the name of a region in North America. However, in the movie, is the name that used to describe a club, where the club becomes an important setting in this movie.

The last is the symbolic code. This code is focused on the differences that related to the theme, which are the good side vs. bad side, criminality vs. love affairs, and eastern culture vs. western culture.


In conclusion, the study has shown that the main character in this film has undergone a transformation. It can be seen through the results of the analysis the characterizations of the characters in the beginning to the end of the movie. In addition, this study also analyzes the minor figures that have a significant role to lead indirectly, so the main character can change. Furthermore, after analyzing the figures, this study analyzed the physical background, social background and metaphorical background also affects the main character changes. By analyzing the theme and give an explanation of the five codes found in this movie also shows that the main character change has been answered the problem formulation that is described in the chapter one.

These suggestions are made ​​for researchers in the future because the writer thinks this movie can be explored in depth by using other theories because it is a complicated movie. In other words, this movie has a lot of elements to be analyzed. For example, the movie can be analyzed by using the theory of psychoanalysis. This theory can be applied to analyze the main character because the character is not consistent from the beginning to the end of the movie. In addition, the movie can also be analyzed using postcolonial theory, in which the movie shows conflicting cultures, namely the western and eastern cultures. The movie shows the main character that represents western culture can be assimilated into the culture of the east gradually, as stated by Homi Bhabha. In addition, the main character is also shown to have a bad perception about eastern culture, especially coming on time, as stated by Edward Said.


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Melisa was born in Pemangkat, West Broneo on September 11th, 1991. The author graduated her Bachelor degree at Bina Nusantara University in the field of English Literature on 2014.

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