John Woo was first cool in Hollywood back in the Stone Age (AKA the early 90s), thanks to festival exposure and a limited theatrical run for The Killer in 1990. The Killer is a superb action melodrama starring Chow Yun-Fat as a hitman who accidentally blinds a beautiful singer (Sally Yeh). He tries to make things right by carrying out another hit so he can earn enough money to pay for a cornea transplant for her, all while dealing with unhappy mobsters and a hard-nosed cop (Danny Lee) who becomes sympathetic to his cause.

A remake was planned; Walter Hill was to direct, and Richard Gere and Denzel Washington were mentioned as the leads. The purported script for the remake, set in Hong Kong, is still floating around the Internet, but the project became mired in Development Hell. The rights now evidently reside with Woo and his producing partner Terence Chang, and Chang says that a director has been hired for a remake, according to The Hollywood Reporter. The director is John H. Lee, with two features to his name: 1998's The Cut Runs Deep, a gangster coming of age tale set in New York City, and 2004's A Moment to Remember, a slow-paced romantic drama that drove me nuts -- and not in a good way -- but which is beloved by 895 voters at IMDb (8.5 rating).

Chang says that Lee will "move the action through L.A.'s Koreatown, Chinatown and South Central" and that "the actor has to be Korean in this version." Sounds like a good opportunity for a Korean actor. Director Lee told the trade paper: "I ask myself why they chose me and whether I can top it ... But then I realize it's not about making it better. It's about making my own version." Still sounds good; here's the part that makes me leery: "My strength is dealing with human emotions, austerity and elegance," says Lee. The original was overblown and over-the-top in every wonderful, melodramatic sense, so if Lee plans to make an "austere" and "elegant" action film, how is that going to get my blood pumping? Is he going to downplay or reduce the action scenes? A new script is in process.

This is another sign that Woo and Chang have tired of trying to get their own projects made in Hollywood. (The Battle of Red Cliff, directed by Woo, is due to wrap filming in Asia shortly and is looking for a US distributor.) But why do they feel the need to cannibalize the past? Blood Brothers, a reworking of Woo's earlier Bullet in the Head, met with mixed response in Asia and didn't make much headway with critics who saw it at the Venice and Toronto fests, which is not very encouraging when considering the prospects for a killer remake of The Killer. The announcement was made on the first day of the Asian Film Market, held in conjunction with the Pusan film festival.
categories Movies, Cinematical