This past week I’ve reviewed 8 films that were remade by the director who directed the original version (that comment may be a misnomer, as some of the “original” films were actually remakes themselves!). Today we will close out the week by taking a look at 2 more films, which will bring us to the halfway point. It is to be hoped that if nothing else, this series of articles will give you all some films to add to your queues, and give others a list of films to watch over this three day weekend.
Yesterday, I took a look at two films whose remakes paled in comparison to the original versions. Thankfully, that is not always the case, as we will see in today’s post titled:
“Remaking the Tinsel in Tinseltown”
“20 Films Remade by the Original Directors”
~Director: Michael Mann~
Original Film: L.A. Takedown
Cast: Scott Plank, Alex McArthur, Michael Rooker, Daniel Baldwin, Xander Berkeley
Country: United States
Specs: 97 mins / Color / OAR 1.33:1
I really wanted to like this made-for-television film. On the surface, it is an entertaining crime/thriller with an intriguing premise. However, it feels rushed and miscast, unfortunate though it may be. Story revolves around a rag tag group of professional hold up men and their desire to make their final “hit” before “retiring”. Meanwhile, a no-holds-bared detective is hot on their trail, mostly just moments behind each step they take.
Most of the acting in this film is mediocre at best, with dialogue bordering on hokey in many of the scenes. It felt as though the script was written to make the villains/heroes look cool, but it came across as amateur filmmaking. The music is nicely chosen, and fits the mood of the film very well, as is usually the case with a Michael Mann film. However, it wasn’t utilized nearly as much as it ought to have been. Many of the scenes could have used some background music to set a mood, instead of the (what sounded like) the raw audio track. A couple of times the character that was off screen says their line, and it sounds like the mic on the “on camera” character was used to record it.
In addition, the story felt completely rushed. It felt as though a number of scenes had been excised, to fit it into a 90 minute window. The storyline of Vincent, the cop, and his girlfriend isn’t very deep. I was completely removed from the film (similar to my reactions to the current season of “24”) by the girlfriends actions suddenly halfway through the film, as they were completely unbelievable. She gets upset with him because he fought off some harassments in a bar, in which she tells him “You don’t care about me, you care about the job”. Never were we led to feel that way. Also, Pat and his girlfriend all of a one-night stand are deeply in love with each other, and she is upset that he lied to her and is a bank-robber? Again, too much happens to fast.
I got lost in the sudden mentioning of character names, without showing faces, in the convoluted “who turned on who?” finale. And the ending was very anticlimactic. SPOILER ALERT: I never felt tension between the police and Pat, who dies in a hotel hallway after Waingro shoots him through the wall, then jumps to his death. Could have certainly used an additional 30 minutes or more of exposition/story.
To his credit, I understand Mann was forced to make changes to his much longer and detailed screenplay when he learned that his script “Heat” would not be a theatrical feature after all, but a watered down made for TV film.
Still, too much was missing in the way of story for it to make much difference.
My Rating: *** / C
Remake Film: Heat
Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Val Kilmer, Tom Sizemore and Jon Voight
Country: United States
Specs: 188 mins / Color / OAR 2.35:1
Excellence in filmmaking sums up “Heat”. Right from the start, we are introduced to a thought out intricate plot. At moment 1 we are launched into a scene full of intense suspense, fast paced action, and superb acting to bring it all together. Mann has taken his first incarnation of this, “L.A. Takedown”, and flushed it out immensely, given the characters wonderful exposition, obtained a wonderful cast, and brought his budget up tenfold.
For starters, the intensity level has been ramped up to 11 in the multifaceted character piece. The bank shootout itself is one of the best action sequences ever captured on celluloid. The scene where De Niro’s and Pacino’s characters meet in the coffee shop, while subdued and dialogue driven, is as brilliantly written and filmed as could be. The anticipation when De Niro’s character eventually has to make a pivotal life choice is as charged as they come.
Giving the characters lives outside of the “crew” gives every one of them a personality beyond the typical bad guy. Getting rid of most of the “clever” dialogue found in the original only brought perfection to an already interesting premise. Tweaking the ending to actually be an intense standoff between the protagonist (Pacino) and the antagonist (DeNiro) was what the first version was lacking. The film is about the two men against each other, and how similar they are. Giving us a peak into what makes them tick was brilliant, and most other filmmakers ought to wish they had the chance to do what Mann did here.
My Rating: ***** / A
~Director: The Pang Brothers~
Original Film: Bangkok Dangerous
Cast: Pawalit Mongkolpisit, Premsinee Ratanasopha, Patharawarin Timkul, Pisek Intrakanchit, Korkiate Limpapat
Specs: 105 mins / Color / OAR 1.85:1
Wow. I owe an apology to every film that I’ve ever given a 1 star rating to. Can I give negative stars? This overlong (at 1:45 even), boring, incoherent, jumbled mess of a film needed a new writer, a new editor, a new actor (am I supposed to really believe the trannie is a sexy stripper?), and a new editor (did I already say that?). There is ZERO rhythm to the editing style of this film. It feels like the worst student film ever made (is that even possible?) has been expanded into a feature length “film”. How they got the money to do an American remake is beyond me.
Some of the positive aspects of this film are….they are….um…..man this is hard. OK, the opening title sequence is a very clever and cool sequence. On the other hand, the fact that I never know why he is a contract killer, I don’t know who the people are that he is killing, I don’t understand why the girl falls in love with him when they cannot communicate AT ALL (he doesn’t read lips, doesn’t speak any sounds (until at the end of the film after the “twist”), doesn’t know sign language, and apparently doesn’t know how to write), pains me to even spend the time to write this review. Sadly, no, depressingly, there is no story beyond a forced attempt at a love story amidst the random ruthless killings.
This film has so little sound, so much random nonsense editing, and techno music beating throughout, it literally felt like a very very very long music video. I’ve never been as bored with a major motion picture as I was with this. Ugh.
My Rating: * / F
Remake Film: Bangkok Dangerous
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Charlie Yeung, Chakrit Yamnam, Nirattisai Kaljaruek, Panward Hemmanee
Country: United States
Specs: 99 mins / Color / OAR 1.85:1
OK, I was surprised by this “by the book” action film from the directing team that also brought us “The Eye”. I think that they completely screwed up the marketing of this film. The trailer alone had me yawing in my seat. Surprisingly, this remake of the 1999 film is a completely different film. Not in story, but in style.
For starters, The Pang Brothers did the wise decision and allowed the main assassin (Cage’s character) to speak. They also added narration to the film that helped with the character exposition. And lastly, they allowed someone else to rewrite their script, and edit their movie.
This new version is most certainly a better film in every way (compared to the original, it’s a masterpiece). It has loads of action and suspense, feeling an awful lot like a Tony Scott film in a number of places. It has a visual color palette that is also fitting (with the exception of the confusing choice to film the closing scene in red?). Sequences such as the boat chase (and the camera angle showing the bullets piercing the bottom of the boat) are pleasantly exciting, and keep the interest level high. There was nary a dull moment in this film.
While a typical action film that hits all the marks of “how to make an action film 101” (I did say, after all, that if feels like a Tony Scott film) is what The Pang Brothers delivered, it is never boring, and surprised as though I was, Cage did an OK job in the role. I would expect that the reasons it got a mess of negative reviews are because many did not see the original. Had they, I’m sure they would rescind most of the negativity directed at this entertaining thrill ride.
My Rating: **** / B