When I was a young cinephile, I was introduced to director John Woo‘s excellent The Killer, and it gave me what has continued to be a passion for foreign cinema. For those who only hear about international films around Oscar time, ones that can look crushingly dour, let me tell you about the international action scene of 1980s Hong Kong. Dubbed as “Gun fu” cinema, it was full of intense firefights, explosions, and a hefty dose of real Man Pain drama, but in the best of ways. It catapulted Woo into the international spotlight, made Chow Yun-fat a major star (also of note, 1980s Chow Yun-fat was caliente), and seriously influenced later directors like Quentin Tarantino.
There were several seminal movies to come out of this era, including a particular favorite of mine (also directed by Woo) A Better Tomorrow II. (The first Better Tomorrow is fine, but 2 takes it to an insane level). But the most familiar and lauded of the Gun fu era is Woo’s 1989 film The Killer, about an assassin named Ah Jong (Chow Yun-fat) who accidentally blinds a young nightclub singer (Jennie, Sally Yeh) on a job for the Traids, and takes one last job to pay for her eye surgery. I mean the setup is a classic. But! There’s romance, a double-cross, an act of unexpected mercy, and it all kicks off an investigation by Detective Li (played by Danny Lee) into Ah Jong. Li becomes obsessed with Ah Jong’s unexpected moral compass, and the two men become embroiled in a cat and mouse game that ultimately sees them teaming up. Without spoilers, it all leads to a church full of doves because of course it does. It’s a masterpiece.
So, naturally, Woo is looking to remake it. According to THR, the director will be making the picture for Universal Pictures and eOne, but he wants to do so with a twist. As the report states, Black Panther‘s Lupita Nyong’o is in negotiations to star in the project, which sounds like it will see the lead roles gender-swapped. One of the key components to The Killer is the chemistry and uneasy alliance between Ah Jong and Li, so finding the right person for the detective role will be key. But regardless, the idea of Nyong’o leading this remake sounds like an excellent idea. Why remake a classic unless you can bring something substantially different to it? And who better to do so than the original director? As THR writes, “The studio is describing the remake as a “blistering thriller that blends espionage with extraordinary stunts, an assassin is sworn to protect a young woman she accidentally blinded during a mob hit years prior.”
Bring it on. (And go watch or re-watch The Killer while we wait for more!)