Geschrieben am 3. Juli 2024 von für Crimemag, CrimeMag Juli 2024

Kolakowski: Smoking Gun (25) – John Woo’s THE KILLER new?

Nick Kolakowski: John Woo is Remaking ‘The Killer.’ But Why?

Directors don’t often remake their own movies. Off the top of my head, I can only think of Michael Haneke redoing “Funny Games” twenty years apart, Hitchcock giving “The Man Who Knew Too Much” a later-career revamp with a tweaked plot, and Takashi Shimizu directing both the Japanese and American versions of “The Grudge.”

Such instances are few and far between, in other words. This isn’t suprising; given the effort it takes for even a powerful director to get a film off the ground, they usually want to focus on producing something new. Which makes John Woo’s decision to remake “The Killer,” his 1989 masterpiece, a little odd: this isn’t a case of a master wanting to revamp an earlier, more amateurish work (which was Hitchcock’s ostensible motive for remaking “The Man Who Knew Too Much,” for example), and I somehow doubt Woo lacks potential projects.

The original version of “The Killer” was a virtually beat-by-beat homage to Melville’s “Le Samourai,” albeit with an exponentially higher body count. The remake will underscore that debt to the French New Wave by moving its action from 1980s Hong Kong to 2020s Paris, but the major plot points will presumably stay the same: an assassin (played by Chow Yun-Fat in the original and Nathalie Emmanuel in the remake) accidentally blinds a singer during a nightclub shootout, then takes a trope-y One Last Job for the money to help restore their sight; meanwhile, a hellbent cop (Danny Lee in the original, Omar Sy in the remake) pursues the assassin.

Copious amounts of gunfire ensue. The original’s climactic set-piece in an old church is considered one of those paragons of action cinema, combining Peckinpah-style editing with lunatic choreography and (if that wasn’t enough) operatic displays of emotion. Despite a career of iconic films (“Hard Boiled,” “Bullet in the Head,” etc.), it’s potentially Woo’s high-water mark as a director, a 15-minute stretch in which all of his obsessions and filmmaking tricks crash together like asteroids forming a new planet.

At the time, the movie’s overall effect was jaw-dropping; I remember teenage cinephiles watching it again and again on pirated VHS in the late 90s, back before tangled rights issues made it virtually impossible to find in any format. It wasn’t just the slow-motion gunfights or Chow Yun-Fat looking elegant in a silk tie and black suit as he plowed through waves of baddies or even the menacing atmosphere with its neon and cigarette smoke and sweaty linen shirts—it was the energy pulsing beneath it all, the sense that you were watching something far more alive and unpredictable than we’d find at the local multiplex.

As to be expected, such cinematic daring unleashed a host of knockoffs over the next decade, resulting in dull films like “The Replacement Killers” and “Hard Rain” that tried to copy the formula but never quite managed to capture the soul. By the end of the century, even Woo himself seemed tapped out: “Mission: Impossible 2,” in which he was gifted (or cursed?) with a mega-budget in exchange for giving Tom Cruise a sheen of insouciant cool, feels exhausted by its own pyrotechnics, like a kid who collapses after guzzling a two-liter bottle of Mountain Dew.

My question is, will Woo revive all his old tricks for the remake, or try something new? The casting of Omar Sy, the charming comedian, hints at a movie lighter on its feet than its predecessor. It doesn’t take much for a Woo gun battle to transform into a Busby Berkeley musical number. But whatever Woo chooses to do, it would be great if he evolved past his legacy, producing something that would make even the most innovative of the contemporary action directors, like Gareth Evans and Timo Tjahjanto, take a step back in awe.

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Nick Kolakowski is the author of „Maxine Unleashes Doomsday“ and „Boise Longpig Hunting Club“ as well as the Love & Bullets trilogy of novellas. His noir fiction has appeared in Tough, ThugLit, Mystery Tribune, Plots With Guns, and various anthologies. His „Payback is Forever“ (Shotgun Honey 2022) is inspired clearly by the novels of Richard Stark. Our review here (in German). – See also his Hell of a Mess. A Love & Bullets Hookup.

Nick Kolakowski, geboren 1980, aufgewachsen in Washington. D.C., hat Geschichte in Chicago studiert. Er schreibt Romane, Kurzgeschichten, Lyrik und Essays, viele davon über Crime Fiction und verwandte Themen. Seine Texte erscheinen u. a. in der Washington Post, in Shotgun Honey, North American Review, The Evergreen Review, Rust & Months. Kolakowski lebt in New York City. Eine Besprechung des von Parker inspirierten „Payback is Forever“ in unseren Bloody Chops.

Bei Suhrkamp auf Deutsch: Love & Bullets.
His essays with us

His website

His column „Smoking Gun“ with us: 
The Newest ‘Ripley’ Series is Stunning and Flawed
‘Sugar’: Not the Neo-Noir Revival We Need
Moral Redemption in Noir: Is It Possible?
What Makes Jack Reacher Tick?
‘True Detective: Night Country’ Tries to Make the Familiar into Something New
Is David Fincher’s ‘The Killer’ a Comedy? 
Rewatching ‘Drive’: Gosling as Noir’s Apex Predator
Elmore Leonard  – City Primeval
Cormac McCarthy Used Crime Fiction’s Tropes to Make Masterpieces
Parker: Donald Westlake’s One Amazing Trick
Cosby, Winslow, Pruitt: Three Heavy-Hitting Thillers for Summer
Weed-Based Crime Thrillers are Going Up in Smoke
‘The Last of Us’: Crime in the Post-Apocalypse 
What Made “Glass Onion” and “Knives Out” So Popular?
Jordan Harper’s One-Two Punch of Crime Fiction Deserves a Wide Audience
‘True Detective’ Season 2: Was It Better Than We All Thought?
From ‘Touch of Evil’ to ‘True Detective,’ Long Shots are Crime Films’ Secret Weapon
Michael Mann, again: What Michael Mann Teaches Us About Enduring Crime Fiction
„Heat 2“ – How Do You Craft a Sequel to a Masterpiece?
4 Ways Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood” Novel Stands Out From the Film.
On „Heat“: Manhunter Takes Down Thief: How Michael Mann’s Early Career Led to ‘Heat’
The Most Honest Nihilism – on „The Way of the Gun“
No, Time to Die – The latest James Bond movie digs into the fatalism at the iconic spy’s core.
Cormac McCarthy’s Overlooked Masterpiece? – „The Councelor“
Nightmare Alley“ – How Guillermo del Toro’s Film Alters a Masterpiece Noir Novel
David Cronenberg – The Carnal Crime of “A History of Violence” and “Eastern Promises”
With Parker, Donald E. Westlake Pulled Off Crime Fiction’s Most Spectacular Magic Trick
Guy Ritchie’s Return to Crime Films is Worth Watching

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