There are tons of US remakes of foreign movies. Some are good, some are okay, and some are downright awful. It’s not often that a US movie is remade overseas (outside of cheap knockoffs and Bollywood movies). With that in mind, I set out to find some foreign language attempts at American movies and found three Asian based remakes.
The Good, the Bad and the Weird (Joheunnom Nabbeunnom Isanghannom) 2008
Director: Jee-Woon Kim
I’ve talked about this movie on this site before because I love it. It is a remake of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, or at least a remake of the concept. It’s like taking the same ingredients but cooking a different dish. First, you take three characters: a stoic hero, a ruthless villain, and an unscrupulous, eccentric mad man. Add a treasure. Give half of the treasure’s location to one character and half to another. Marinade the whole thing with a war. Stir, shake, and blend until mixed. Serve with soju and kimchi. There are enough similarities here to make the two films alike and enough differences to make this version new and fresh. This movie is probably more fun and slap stick than the original, and the original’s cast really can’t be beat. Kang-Ho Song, my favourite Korean actor, is fantastic as the Weird, and Byung-hun Lee is reliably villainous, but in the end they’re not going to top Wallach, Van Cleef, and Eastwood in the same roles.
Unforgiven (Yurusarezaru mono) 2013
Director: Sang-il Lee
Unlike The Good, the Bad and the Weird, Unforgiven is a straight remake of the Clint Eastwood classic it is based on. The song is changed to 1880s Japan following the Shogunate wars. Ken Watanabe plays Jubei (aka Jubei the Killer), a former samurai turned farmer, father, and widower. The plot plays out just as in Unforgiven US but with an added story about the Ainu, an indigenous race being brutalised by the Japanese for trying to retain their customs as the world modernises around them. Director Sang-il Lee creates stunning visuals of snow covered lands and pounding rains and keeps the actions dirty and unglamorous. His actors are excellent, especially Watanabe who can convey years of struggle with a single exhausted look. I wouldn’t say this version is better than the original (for one thing it doesn’t have the legacy of 70 years of Westerns behind it), but I would definitely put it up there as an equal.
A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (San Qiang Pai an Jing Qi) 2009
Director: Yimou Zhang
One of my biggest pet peeves in a movie is when it cannot maintain a tone. Unless it’s the Coen Brothers who can do whatever they like with the tone and make it work. Their ability to mix grim, gritty violence with absurd comedy is peerless because they know the right levels of each to employ. A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop, a Chinese remake of Blood Simple, does not know its limits, going too far in both directions. I could forgive that if the movie’s wackier elements were funny but they’re not. Slapstick, crossed eyes, and funny looking characters aren’t something I find endearing or interesting, but I’ll admit to being a little sad when a character who’s only role seemed to be providing comic relief was brutally strangled to death. Out of the three remakes I watched for this article, this was the miss. It tried too hard to imitate a unique style and fell flat.