Like a bell to Pavlov’s dogs, the merest whiff of a new remake announcement is all it takes to make the internet froth at the mouth. And today there were two: Park Chan-wook’s “Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance” and “Thirst” are both slated for American redoes.
The chances of either of these actually happening are far from good. A proposed “Oldboy” remake starring Will Smith went nowhere, and Park’s material so errs on the side of the extreme that it outdoes pretty much everything short of “300.”
But hey, there’s anger anyway. “Bothered by all those annoying subtitles?” launches Pajiba‘s Dustin Rowles in a fit of heavy sarcasm. “You find stunning visuals annoying? Don’t really care for simple, but visceral violence? Not really into moral gray areas? We all love crass American remakes! Hoo-wa! Semper-Fi!” Go on, do your little dance.
Okay: it’s true that Park’s visuals rule; his images are so glossy they look wrapped in plastic. But while Park tends to focus in on violence that’s, yes, “visceral,” it also tends to be kind of grotesque. How much of it is violence for violence’s sake versus how much actually questions anything larger is a matter of debate, but when it comes to those moral gray areas he likes exploring, I dunno. I always thought once you [SPOILER ALERT] have someone finding redemption in incest, you’re pretty much out there on your own.
Nevertheless, there’s more than enough outrage to go around amongst Park supporters, especially in the case of the overlong “Thirst.” But honestly, just because something is overtly ambitious and foreign doesn’t mean it’s therefore subtle.
The moment you have vampires leaping from roof to roof and hammers being brought to bear upon heads, you lose the ability to get all righteous about “subtlety.” There are no compelling reasons to remake these movies, but to pretend they’re going to be unforgivably simplified and travestied is silly. They’re foreign, yes, but that doesn’t mean we’re entering rarified territories here.
[Photos: “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance,” Palisades Tartan, 2002; “Thirst,” Focus, 2009]