John Woo to remake action classic ‘The Killer’

‘The Killer’ is the undisputed history of cinema’s toughest genre: Now the Hong Kong action flick is getting a remake from original director John Woo.


1989 was a big year for movies: movies like Batman, Dead Poets Society, Harry & Sally, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade, and The Mermaid, to name a few, blew up movie audiences . But it was also the year that one of the most, if not the most, influential action movies was released: John Woo’s The Killer.

Originally known as a comedy director at the start of his career, the Hong Kong filmmaker reinvented himself in the mid-1980s by mixing elements of the wuxia genre (honor, blood brother’s loyalty and combat ease of the protagonists) into a contemporary setting. The result was “A Better Tomorrow”. This is the birth of the heroic bloody genre: hyper-stylized bloody action films. While Hard Boiled, his 1992 parting gift before moving to Hollywood, is often cited for its massive action scenes, it’s The Killer that can arguably be considered Woo’s magnum opus.

Hollywood had already tried to produce a remake of “The Killer” in 1991. Under Walter Hill, Denzel Washington and Richard Gere should have slipped into the roles of Chow Yun-Fat and Danny Lee. Another attempt was launched in 2018. Lupita Nyong’o should have been there while Woo should have been in charge. However, this project was eventually abandoned. Now Universal wants to try again. The remake of “The Killer” is to be produced for home streaming service Peacock. And to make it really work this time around, John Woo is once again on board to direct the remake (via Collider).

Besides The Killer, Peacock Chairman Kelly Campbell’s other films, Shooting Stars and Girls Trip, have also been announced:

“We know people join Peacock to see movies, so we’re constantly adding new ones to give fans something to enjoy. Together with Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, we’re excited to bring our customers fresh, exclusive and original films next year, in addition to legendary blockbusters from Universal Pictures and popular film series available to stream now.

And if you now want to know which streaming service suits your preferences, we have a great comparison for you in the video.

The big streaming comparison

‘The Killer’: That’s what John Woo’s classic is about

The remake of “The Killer” is just one of two projects Woo is directing after more than 18 years in Hollywood. The 76-year-old filmmaker is currently filming Silent Night, an action movie starring Joel Kinnaman in which not a word is spoken.

Fans may be excited to see how Woo will implement the remake. After all, he didn’t even have a script for the original, just a rough plot summary. He is also known for building his films around action scenes. And he doesn’t usually even use storyboards for those — it’s always in his head, Woo revealed (via The Wrap).

The story of “The Killer” is therefore simple, yet moving and powerful: Chow Yun-Fat plays hitman Ah Jong/Jeff, who has one last job to do before retiring. But something goes wrong: he seriously injures the innocent singer Jennie, she becomes almost blind. In order to get him operated, Jeff agrees to do another job. But it turns out to be a trap. And then Detective Lee Ying/Li is after him too. As the situation escalates, the two very different men discover things they have in common. The early friendship abruptly ends in an explosive confrontation.

The influence of John Woo’s The Killer is unmistakable, and without this groundbreaking action classic, The Matrix and John Wick might not exist today.

Now you can prove your expertise in action with this quiz:

Action quiz: can you identify 25 classics from a single image?

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