A Better Tomorrow
Year of release: 2010
Genre: crime drama/action
Director: Song Hae-Sung
Producers: Terence Chang, John Woo, Miyachi Daisuke, Park Hyung-Jun
Writers: Chan Hing-Ka, Leung Suk-Wah
Cinematography: Kang Seung-Gi
Editing: Park Gok-Ji
Music: Lee Jae-Jin
Stars: Ju Jin-Mo, Song Seung-Heon, Kim Kang-Woo, Jo Han Sun, Lee Kyeong-Yeong
Rated R for violence and language
Movie Review Index
Going to the well to produce remakes of films is not just a Hollywood phenomenon, as evidenced by this South Korean remake of John Woo's 1986 classic, a movie that is largely credited for popularizing the "heroic bloodshed" (crime action/drama) genre. Taking on a remake of such an iconic and beloved film is no small task, but director Song Hae-Sung shows himself to be more than capable, creating a picture that should satisfy both fans of the original and those viewers who have never seen it before.
For the most part, the remake follows the plot of the original, though there are a few key differences, namely in the relationship between Hyeok (Jiu Jin-Mo, taking on the role Ti Lung originally played) and Cheol (Kim Kang-Woo, essaying Leslie Cheung's work). From the start, Cheol knows what Hyeok does for a living, and so this creates a much different dynamic between the two than what John Woo displayed. The remake also takes away much of the melodrama and comedy present in the original. It's a dark and serious film from beginning to end, which goes a long way to establishing its' own identity, instead of just being a clone of the original.
This sort of feeling extends to the overall style of the film as well. Yeong (Song Seung-Hung playing the Chow Yun-Fat role) wears a trenchcoat and sports Ray-Bans, but he doesn't use a gun in each hand while bathed in slow motion during the shootouts. There is a more visceral feel to the violence here that, again, works to the film's benefit, since frankly, John Woo's trademarks have become so overused since they first gained some attention with international audiences that they have become parodies of themselves.
As successful as this remake is though, I just can't bring myself to rate it as high as the original. Of course, this comes from a great sense of bias, as the original was one of the first non-martial arts Hong Kong films I watched, and is a major reason this site is around thirteen-plus years later. Also, after the original's release, there were dozens (if not hundreds) of films produced that told similar tales, and so the story here definitely has a feeling of deja vu. However, I will still grant that taken on its' own, this is still a very solidly made picture that will provide two hours of entertainment for those out there who enjoy an odd bit of ultraviolence to go along with their drama.