If you're a fan of foreign cinema, there is a good chance you're familiar with Park Chan-wook's Vengeance Trilogy - and you understand why the news that Oldboy (arguably the trilogy's most famous installment) is getting an American semi-remake from Spike Lee has prompted both outrage and interest. You can probably expect a similar mix of reactions across the board to the announcement that the third Vengeance flick, Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (a.k.a. Lady Vengeance) is getting a similar treatment from Hollywood.
So, can an American re-interpretation of Lady Vengeance manage to be as stylish, gruesome and disturbing as Chan-wook's original? Well, all things considered, it's off to a solid start (in terms of the leading lady and screenwriter being brought onboard). Read on...
The Lady Vengeance press release from Annapurna Pictures (The Master, Killing Them Softly) reveals that Charlize Theron is going to produce and headline the film as "a woman who for reasons of her own completes a prison term for a murder she did not commit, reemerging to punish the killer, and avenge the dead." Co-producers include Theron's ex-assistant-turned-Denver & Delilah partner Beth Kono (who was also a co-producer on Chan-wook's Lady Vengeance), AP's Megan Ellison and Chelsea Barnard, CJ Entertainment's Ted Kim (Love Lust) and Oscar-winner William Monahan (who is also writing the script).
Monahan, of course, snagged an Academy Award for penning Martin Scorsese's The Departed (another American remake of an Asian cinema cult-classic). He recently worked on the screenplays for a remake of The Gambler and the sequel to Robert Rodriguez' adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City graphic novel (which is fully-titled Sin City: A Dame to Kill For).
Now, although responses to the Lady Sympathy remake announcement are indeed bound to be mixed, overall they should (emphasis on should) be less hostile than the general response to Lee's Oldboy. For one, Monahan isn't the lightning rod for controversy that Lee the filmmaker is; in fact, more people should be willing to give Monahan the benefit of the doubt right off the bat, when he says (re: his Lady Sympathy script):
"This will be very American – and very unexpected. Park is a genius; it's the Everest of adaptations and I've got blood in my teeth to do it."
Moreover, there's no reason to question Theron's ability to go dark and twisted after her performances in Monster (which landed her a Best Actress Oscar), Young Adult and Snow White and the Huntsman. The press release doesn't clarify whether Monahan is just scripting the Lady Vengeance remake or serving as writer-director on the project, which admittedly leaves room for more skepticism - as Monahan's directorial debut, London Boulevard, was not received as enthusiastically by the critical masses as his previous writing efforts (which include Body of Lies and Edge of Darkness).
Lastly, the revenge plot of Lady Vengeance could conceivably be transformed into an American context, to the point where the story's foreign origins become pretty much unrecognizable (as happened when Monahan turned Infernal Affairs into The Departed); again, that will depend on who ultimately signs up to direct, and what sort of artistic approach they take to re-fashioning the source material.
Of course, those who are big fans of Chan-wook's original film - and have little to no interest in a remake of any kind - can always just ignore this project. You might even prefer to instead focus on anticipating the filmmaker's upcoming Hollywood debut, Stoker.
Screen Rant will keep you posted on Sympathy for Lady Vengeance as the story develops.
Source: Annapurna Pictures