Ferocious 5 sheds light on a whole universe of pop and geek culture connections with bite-size lists. Explore topics, properties, fandoms you never knew existed in this article series on Bunkazilla. This week, we’re going international in the world of cinema with Iain Boulton….
Remakes continue to be a common trend in Hollywood. Right now, we’re seeing Disney “re-imagine” their animation library into brand new films. But before we kept grimacing at beloved animations being butchered for more money, Hollywood in the 00s also had quite a trend of remake popular international movies too. If a film ended up being raved by critics and worldwide audiences, chances are Hollywood were mulling up plans to make their own version. A good portion of these plans came to cinematic fruition, some didn’t.
Some of them worked to award-winning movie legend levels and some of them were quite frankly dead on arrival. There’s plenty out there but let’s take a look at 5 films that came off the back of a major hit from another country!
1. The Departed (2006)
The crime epic that finally snagged good old Martin Scorsese his overdue Best Director Oscar. The Departed is originally based on the 2002 Chinese film, Infernal Affairs. The thrilling cat and mouse game of an undercover police officer and a corrupt crooked detective is the driving force of both these films. In actual fact, a lot of the original film is faithfully carried over to the remake’s Boston environment.
Instead of gruff Leonardo DiCapiro, Tony Leung was the undercover police officer and instead of sly Matt Damon, Andy Lau was the corrupt detective. Both actors huge mainstays in Chinese cinema – though look out for Tony Leung in Marvel’s upcoming Phase 4 film Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings.
Infernal Affairs had two further instalments to act as bookends for the central story. Both films releasing in 2003, Infernal Affairs 2 acted as a prequel by charting the younger careers of both moles and their commanders while Infernal Affairs 3 dealt with the aftermath surviving characters faced after the original film. While The Departed didn’t do their own sequels, components of these sequels feature in The Departed’s narrative.
While this writer is still a massive fan of the original trilogy, both original and Scorsese’s remake are both terrific films in their own right.
2: Taxi (2004)
Luc Besson has an impressive back catalogue of action titles with his name attached against them whether it’s a writer, producer or director. Taken, The Transporter, these are Besson’s movie children. A forgotten one of his action side projects is that of Taxi, a French action-comedy where an unlucky cop who can’t ultimately ends up partnering up with a daredevil taxi driver in order to stop a gang of ruthless gang robbers.
Taxi became a cult Europe action which eventually got picked up by 20th Century Fox for a US remake. This time, future late-night talk show host Jimmy Fallon was the unlucky cop and Queen Latifah was the daredevil driver. Technically, on paper at the time of release, this could have done decent business at the box office.
Unfortunately, it received lukewarm reviews and a disappointing worldwide gross of $70+ million dollars. Not bad considering its original $35 million budget but Fox clearly had higher hopes for the film. While Besson’s original Taxi spawned several sequels – one with Sylvester Stallone making a grand cameo – the US version of Taxi had its meter shut off after one film.
3. Bangkok Dangerous (2008)
Another Asian cult crime caper which sadly did not reach the incredible heights The Departed achieved a few years earlier.
Originally a crime film from Thailand, Bangkok Dangerous revolves around a talented hitman who soon discovers the error of their murderous ways. The Pang Brother’s 2000 original was a visually arresting affair and in the midst of remake-a-mania The Departed caused after its Oscars success, Bangkok Dangerous got the US remake treatment in 2008, along with the original directors.
There are some considerable differences between The Pang Brother’s 2000 original and their 2008 with Nicolas Cage. The 2000 original has our central protagonist being a deaf-mute hitman while the remake has Nicolas Cage being…well…Nicolas Cage with wavy hair. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, it arrived as an overtly bland hitman thriller that only added to Nicolas Cage’s pile of increasingly bad movies at the time. It wasn’t a disaster as critics made it out to be but it wasn’t entertaining either.
4. A Fistful of Dollars (1964)
Released in 1964, Sergio Leone’s iconic classic western sees Clint Eastwood’s nameless gunfighter turn up in a town torn apart by greed, pride and revenge. Soon ending up on the wrong side of the folks who run the town, Eastwood sets about clearing up the corrupt locale for good.
You might be wondering why it’s on this list? Well, it has quite the connection to Akira Kurosawa’s 1961 samurai film, Yojimbo. The first in The Man with No Name trilogy acted as an unofficial remake of Kurosawa’s film. Leone and his production company had tried valiantly to get the remake rights but failed. This didn’t stop Leone from going ahead and making the film, something the film’s production company Toho was not best pleased about and promptly issued a lawsuit. The court battle delayed A Fistful of Dollar’s release for three years. Thankfully, it was settled out of court and soon found its way to US cinemas and into movie western history.
This isn’t the first time Kurosawa has been an influence for filmmakers. His films such as Seven Samurai was remade into The Magnificent Seven and The Hidden Fortress inspired someone called George Lucas to make something called Star Wars. Kurosawa’s influence is unmistakable.
5. Unforgiven (2013)
Speaking of Westerns, especially ones featuring Clint Eastwood, let’s hit the brakes and go in reverse where one of his most beloved films was reimagined for Japanese audiences.
Receiving plaudits and Oscar glory on its original release in 1992, Clint Eastwood’s Unforgiven was the actors sombre farewell to the western genre. Eastwood played an aging gunslinger who reluctantly goes on one more job to help a group of town prostitutes get justice but gets more than he bargained for when he has to deal with the town’s volatile sheriff.
2013 saw a fascinating remake of Eastwood’s film in Japan featuring Ken Watanabe in Clint’s role. Funnily enough, Watanabe had starred for Eastwood in 2006’s Letters from Iwo Jima. The Japanese remake takes the same story and places it in 1880 Japan where a former samurai picks up his sword once more to help serve justice.
Take a look at the trailer below, if you love Eastwood’s original – this definitely looks like one to check out and appreciate on its own cinematic merits.
That’s the list for now. There have been many more remakes of international hit movies, which ones do you remember? Let us know in the comments below!
Until next time… stomp on monsters of culture, stomp on!