Since 2003's much-panned Paycheck, American audiences haven't heard much from the often-imitated action auteur, John Woo. But he hasn't been resting on his laurels. In fact, he's been adding feathers to his cap. His latest film, Red Cliff, is an over four-hour-long historical epic that broke the record for the highest-grossing film in China (a title once held by Titanic).
However, Red Cliff, like Woo's next project, Jianyu Jianghu (The Swordsman's World), is in Chinese. And we all know that subtitles - especially on an action film that won't play with the art-house types - dooms a film to limited release in America. So when WILL the director return to American screens with an English language film?
IMDB lists a slew of projects in development, but the two Woo is most excited about haven't been announced till now. One is a remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Film Noir classic, Le Samourai. The movie tells the story of a solitary hit man in Paris, who works under a code of behavior not unlike that of the ancient Samurai warriors.
Melville's 1967 film greatly influenced Woo's action flick classic, The Killer, along with virtually every other hip-themed crime movie that came thereafter (most notably Jim Jarmusch's 1999 cult-film hit Ghost Dog, which was also a direct homage to Le Samourai). Melville's film is a celebrated for a reason, and you should definitely check it out for yourself to know why.
However, The Killer came out twenty years ago, and Woo's interest in Le Samourai now is “to make it into a modern film.”
The second project on Woo's slate, like Red Cliff, is a period piece - this time about Marco Polo. Apparently, the relationship between the Italian explorer and emperor Kublai Khan (also the inspiration for writer Italo Calvino's acclaimed Invisible Cities) is one of Woo's "favorite stories." Who knew.
So which of these films will be first up on Woo's docket? Critics and audiences tend to stray when Woo doesn't stay true to his action roots (usually for good reason). Action is what Woo does best. So I'm hoping he pushes ahead with Le Samourai (Woo-style gun play on the streets of Paris?); no matter if the film ends up in French, English, or Chinese, I will be there.