After more than a decade of rumors and false starts, it seems that director John Woo does intend to follow through with an English language remake of The Killer after all. Indiewire is reporting that the Hong Kong action movie legend will helm his own remake of the 1989 action flick, often regarded as the most iconic in a string of similarly bloody and over-the-top films that Woo directed in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The remake will stream exclusively on Peacock, in collaboration with Universal Pictures.
The original Killer is about a well-traveled assassin played by the great Chow Yun-fat, a frequent Woo collaborator. When the titular killer’s mission accidentally results in the blinding of a nightclub singer, the honorable man is forced to take on what amounts of a suicide mission in order to set things right. Sally Yeh and Danny Lee co-starred in the 1989 original, which film fans consider part of what was dubbed the “heroic bloodshed” genre of the era—splashy, style-heavy action movies with over-the-top gunplay and comic book-like sensibilities. The works of John Woo, including The Killer, would go on to be very influential in American action cinema among directors such as Michael Bay, and there are many allusions to Wood in modern parodies such as Hot Fuzz.
In the last decade, Woo has frequently been rumored to be starting work on a remake or sequel to the film, including 2018 reports that actress Lupita Nyong’o was purportedly being eyed to lead a gender-swapped version of the story. There’s no telling, though, if those reports are still relevant, or what direction the now 75-year-old Woo wants to go in at this point. His most recent film was 2017 action thriller Manhunt, which streamed exclusively via Netflix, so the director is no stranger to shooting for the streaming era.
Can any new version of a late ‘80s action classic like The Killer really be translated for a modern audience? Or have the tropes of the genre become such elements of parody that they’re impossible to do sincerely at this point? We’ll just have to see what Woo has left up his sleeve.