John Woo’s Unfinished Projects

May 30, 2012

Woo Van Damme New Film
John Woo with Jean-Claude Van Damme. Picture from at least 100 years ago.

It’s been at least two posts since I’ve written about John Woo. He’s been pretty quiet since the release of Red Cliff which still demands a larger fanbase. I think hardcore fans skipped out on it theatrically knowing it wasn’t the full cut and the interest in Chinese epics has dwindled since we are long out of the era of Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero. Woo’s slow down in production had me a bit worried, especially after hearing him deny having throat cancer doesn’t help much. He had a tonsil tumor removed before February this year as well and is not getting much progress done on his romance film Love and Let Love. Whether this film gets off the ground or not, it can be placed in the large pile of projects that Woo had put on hold. I’ve tried to make a complete list compiling what is currently in the works and films that are no longer in play.

Kickin’ off with the films that are currently in the lengthy period known as “pre-production”:

John Woo’s Le Samourai

Nearly any article that mentions a mild history of Woo always brings up either Le Samourai or Jean Pierre Melville’s influence on him. It’s hard to overstate, and would make me wonder how Melville would react to such love from directors like Woo or Johnnie To. According to French director Jacques Rivette (who hated Woo’s Face/Off but loves Luc Besson), Melville apparently always wanted to have disciples so I’d suppose he would be proud to have such followers. I don’t think there’s any real reason for Woo to remake Le Samourai as he’s already nipped the best bits of it for The Killer ages back. It would also be an American film which only makes me imagine Nicolas Cage in the Alain Delon role and Rihanna as the nightclub singer. It’d be a big step up from her work in Battleship probably, but we’ll have to wait and see if anything new comes from this project.

John Woo’s Marco Polo

There’s very little information about this one, but Woo is interested in another historical film about Marco Polo, specifically his relationship with Kublai Khan. I’m not Chinese history expert (and neither is Woo from his story in Red Cliff) but from drawings of Kublai, I think Lam Suet should co-star. If he’s working his historical romance now, I think three in a row would be a bit much to ask of Woo. Cut it out with the historical films already.

John Woo’s Flying Tigers

Here’s Woo being slow to the punch again. Zhang Yimou’s Flowers of War was first to be the big popular film that was a Chinese production with an English-language actor (Christian Bale). This could be why it’s been at least a year since we’ve heard anything about Flying Tigers which was about an American Volunteer Group and the 14th Air Force during World War II. This would have been a film starring Tom Cruise which Woo hasn’t worked with since, well, the worst film in the Mission Impossible series. As no one has spoken about this film in quite a while, I can only assume it’s been shoved back. Tom’s very busy doing his hair metal movie anyways.

John Woo’s Youth of the Beast

This one I was the most excited for a number of reasons. First, it’s Woo’s return to the gangster genre, his first since…well, I suppose either Hard Boiled or A Bullet in the Head. Has it been that long? Second, it’s a film that Woo hasn’t already basically done unlike Le Samourai Woo has stated that he is a fan of the Japanese yakuza genre, but hasn’t explicitly noted how Youth of the Beast or any of Seijun Suzuki’s films have influenced him. Lastly, it’s a film that not everyone knows. Youth of the Beast is generally considered higher-tier Suzuki from his fan-base but it’s not quite as popular as Branded to Kill or Tokyo Drifter. The only problem? The film will probably be American as it’s plot now involves a “western outsider” and a two groups of gangsters: Russian and Japanese. Woo’s American films’ aren’t my favourite’s, but I’m still quite curious.

That’s a lot on Woo’s plate so that bastard better get well and get filming as soon as possible. He has left projects off long enough or has turned down films which would’ve have interesting results. Let’s quickly dash through the list of films that Woo has passed up.

John Woo’s King’s Ransom

Anticipating King’s Ransom is nostalgia from the 90s. In a perfect world, this should have been Woo’s first project in the United States as it was reportedly going to star Chow-Yun Fat and be written by the Face/Off writers Michael Colleary and Mike Web. This film has been in talks since the 1990s and Woo has finally given up the idea of directing it. The latest news on King’s Ransom is that it will be directed by Milky Way alumni Patrick Leung who also worked with Woo as a second unit director on The Killer and Red Cliff. In the book John Woo: The Interviews, Woo states the script has changed on King’s Ransom, so I don’t think we’ll be seeing any Face/Off-esque dialouge directly translated to Mandarin anytime soon.

John Woo’s Metroid

Video games aren’t movies. Movies based on things where a protagonist who is generally mute sound like bad things to base your film about. Either way, Woo has purchased the rights to a film version of the Metroid series around 2006. This was pretty shocking for me to hear about at the time as Woo seems to dislike science fiction. He even turned down the original script to Face/Off which he found to be too science fiction oriented in 1993. His only real step into the science fiction arena was in Pay Check which isn’t anyone’s favourite Woo film. No one has really discussed anything about Metroid relating to John Woo since the announcement of him buying the rights to it in the mid-2000s, but I have a hunch that any paper Woo signed relating to this project is gathering dust in a closet.

John Woo’s Goldeneye

I don’t even no the accuracy of this one as the only mention of it I can find is in Christopher Heard’s book Ten Thousand Bullets which has a lot inaccurate information. According to the book, MGM offered Woo a chance to direct GoldenEye in the 1990s even before he signed on to make Broken Arrow which is a nearly forgotten film. Woo apparently took on Broken Arrow as a way to try to learn how to use special effects…so if you’re a fan of pre-Matrix post-Terminator 2 special effects, there’s a copy in a bargain bin somewhere with your name on it. GoldenEye, and the James Bond universe is probably something Woo shouldn’t have tackled in the long run. James Bond is an institution and you can’t really change those films too much and get away with it. Neither the producers nor the James Bond fans would really be happy with that. Woo would’ve been held down by the restraints of what requires a Bond film to be a Bond film at that time and not really get any of his own ideas really placed within it. But it’s still not as strange as the next film Woo had been considering.

John Woo’s Phantom of the Opera

I have just stared at the heading of this section for a minute trying to even think about what to write here. Woo has long pined for the chance to direct a musical film or as he describes it as “his action musical”. There’s little information in this one within the Ten Thousand Bullets book and the John Woo: The Interviews books stating that John Travolta suggested the idea to him. Woo reported that “it somehow didn’t work out”. Even more nuts is Woo was also in the running to direct Chicago, remember that film? No one cares about Chicago anymore. Woo had already signed on to direct Mission Impossible 2 at that time, so there was no chance of going through with it.

Woo’s a director with a long history mixed with rumors, classics and films ideas that need to be done as soon as possible. I don’t know how ill Woo may really be, but I’m hoping for good news and good films in the future. In the meantime, I’m going to see if Paul Verhoeven is planning to make another film before he turns 100.


It’s Easter

April 23, 2011
Terrible Thor Chocolate

It’s Easter time. Why are you online? It’s nice out. Go outside. Celebrate the religious day with a non-religious chocolate. Eat up some Thor!
(I’m on break. Hard-Boiled and A Better Tomorrow reviews coming soon. Promise!)


Ottawa Cinema – May

April 22, 2011

As summer approaches, we get closer to great period when the theaters are flooded with films of the junk-food variety and give far more crap for me to blog about. I’ll try not to overdose on it by talking about every single minute bit and detail about what’s happening in The Avengers film (see one post below). Instead, let’s focus on what’s coming up in the following month. Let’s start with Ottawa specific action films in May.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar!

I’ve blogged about this earlier and I’m a bit more familiar with the film now. What is potentially disappointing is that the film reportedly not as over the top as Noboru Iguchi’s other films like Machine Girl or Mutant Girls Squad. In other words, no more penis-schnozed monsters. On the otherhand, this film boasts Iguchi’s largest budget to date which has peaked my interest. I still think the 1970s television series looks more humorous in a Flash Gordon type of way. This is only playing one night at the Mayfair theater and it’s sadly only a digital video, but I’ll still trek out to see it.

Karate-Robo Zaborgar is part of the Sushi Typhoon studio who seem to be on good measure with the Mayfair as they’ve shown nearly all their films. For me, watching too many of them too close together makes it a blur of goofy gore and action that make them pretty hard to separate from one another. Sushi Typhoon films are best watched in spread apart individual bursts. That’s why I could potentially skip Hell Driver from Tokyo Gore Police director Yoshihiro Nishimura which is playing the week after. The film does boast a woman with a chainsaw sword though, so we’ll wait and see if I’m curious enough.

The next film coming is one I’ve been putting off watching through an on-demand feature to see if I can get to see it in a theater.

Even the poster is awe-inspiring

Kim Jee-Woon’s film have gained a cult following and it’s understandable why. They are tight, well acted and often gorgeous to look at it. We are thankfully greeted to a 35 mm print of this, opposed to the other films digital projection. Tonight at the Mayfair, another 35 of Kim’s A Tale of Two Sisters is playing which I’m afraid I can’t attend as I’m far out of town. This should be a big improvement over the double feature of The Good, The Bad and the Weird and Deathwish 3 a few months back as the first film was sadly just a DVD projected on the big screen. LAME. The Good, The Bad and the Weird is only disappointing in it’s lack of depth, but a blast through and through. For the curious, Deathwish 3 lived up to it’s reputation as a Cannon classic (if you are a fan of Cannon films that is!)

Outside action films there are a few more exciting films coming to Ottawa in May. The ByTowne cinema shows one of the greatest Hong Kong films ever with a 35 mm print of Chungking Express early in April which plays for three days. I’ll be there. No need for a review as it’s obviously awesome. Later in the month, two Westerns also are coming with The Magnificent Seven at the ByTowne while the Mayfair shows Sam Peckinpah’s Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. The Magnificent Seven doesn’t reach the heights of it’s inspiration (Seven Samurai) but it does have incredible star power and a much parodied score. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid has Sam Peckinpah directing Bob Dylan which is a concept that kind of blows my mind. I wonder what they thought of each other?

This blog is running a bit long, so let’s summarize the films that you can hopefully catch anywhere in Ottawa with a quick chart and summary:

May Action Films

Hobo with a Shotgun is Canada’s stab at Grindhouse which could have mixed results, but I’d feel foolish to miss out on Canada’s attempt to cash-in on this trend. True Legend has not confirmed for any theater I can find in the Ottawa area, but I’m still hoping some theater will show it despite it’s checkered reputation. I’ve placed Kung Fu Panada 2 smack in the middle as I skipped the first one out and am unfamiliar with it’s plot or quality. But this one has Jackie Chan and Jean-Claude Van Damme in the same film so…should I rent the first one to be ready for this? Would someone who doesn’t really care about the same studio’s Shrek films give this a chance? You tell me as the length of the interest bar might only be stretched due to the film’s title. Lastly we have Thor and Priest. Thor is a film that I only realized is in 3D today so that probably shows how excited I actually am about it. Last and lead is Priest from the director of that movie where black-winged angels had guns or something. Be a good friend to cinema and don’t see Priest.