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John Woo’s The Killer is getting a US remake

Let’s be honest, a remake of John Woo’s The Killer was pretty much inevitable. The 1989 action flick may not be as well-loved as Woo’s Hard Boiled, but it’s still a master class in charismatic acting, heroic bloodshed and ultra-violent gunplay. Unfortunately US audiences largely refuse to see films created in other countries (not to mention anything starring a non-white actor, or, failing that, Will Smith), so it’s almost surprising that it’s taken this long for Hollywood to decide that the film ought to be recreated with a Caucasian lead and an American setting.

According to Bleeding Cool, word has emerged from this year’s Cannes Film Festival that Lion Rock Productions has acquired funding from Bruno Wu’s Seven Stars Film Studios to finance the English-language remake. John H. Lee has been tapped to direct the film based on a script written by Josh Campbell. Casting has yet to be finalized, but Chinese actress Sarah Yan Li has been signed to co-star in the film.

As for the remake’s plot, Bleeding Cool offers the following synopsis:

Set in present day Los Angeles, Jef, a highly skilled contract killer falls in love with the only living witness to his latest job, a female singer, played by Sarah Yan Li, who was blinded during the hit.

Meanwhile, Detective Vaughn, the cop assigned to investigate Jef’s hit, has a chance to save his reputation when he correctly, and fatefully, suspects Jef to be the killer, but after witnessing Jef display an act of heroism, Vaughn’s perceptions of right and wrong begin to change.

Aside from the baffling spelling of the protagonist’s name, that sounds almost exactly like the plot of the original film, which should be comforting to fans. Likewise, while neither Lee nor Campbell is very well known, their work so far should offer a glimmer of hope for this production. Lee’s work on Chinese films demonstrates an ample knowledge of stylized action, and Campbell’s IMDB resume, while short, doesn’t seem to include any horrible missteps. If nothing else, it could certainly be worse.

The real question now is which actor will be cast to replace Chow Yun Fat in the lead role. Anyone who has seen Yun Fat in the film (or any of Woo’s films, for that matter) will agree that the man has a unique charisma and presence that lends itself as well to portraying the hard-bitten one man army as well as the Schwarzenegger’s or Willis’ of the world. While it won’t be impossible to find someone to fill his shoes, the production’s relatively low-profile negates the possibility of snagging an established American action star, and given the past few decades’ shift away from hardcore action movie making, the crop of up and coming actors who could carry a movie like this is woefully miniscule.

Still, Woo’s involvement with the production (he’s a producer) should be seen as good news, and hopefully means that the iconic director will be able to guide this thing toward some semblance of quality. Or, at the very least, towards a film that drives American audiences to go out and find a copy of the original version of The Killer.