The Conversation: Why Must Hollywood Keep Remaking Hot Foreign Films?

The Conversation: Why Must Hollywood Keep Remaking Hot Foreign Films?

Sep 22, 2011

Among the few things I'm truly optimistic about, it's remakes. Odd, I know, and this isn't to say I find many remakes to be any good at all. But the potential for great film adaptations of other films is high, and so while I am in fact quite cynical about Hollywood's remake abilities and intentions, I can still be hopeful that this or that redo might be the next The Departed or Scarface or His Girl Friday or The Maltese Falcon

Or Let Me In, which had it's redundancies yet at the same time translated Let the Right One In to Americanese with perfect new context and subtext. Of course, it also failed to do much more theatrically than the original. So what's the point of continuing to immediately turnaround hot foreign films this way? 

Today genre fans are upset about Screen Gems' announcement they're remaking Gareth Evans's The Raid. It makes little sense to me, given that the original Indonesian action flick (which I loved) just won an audience award voted on by thousands of English-speaking viewers at the Toronto International Film Festival. There's also a lot more awesome action spectacle than foreign language dialogue. Heck, I woudn't even mind Sony (which owns Screen Gems and also holds U.S. distribution rights to the original) releasing a dubbed version of Evans's film, so long as they also have a subtitled version. 

The Raid isn't the only film hot off the TIFF Midnight Madness program, either. Dimension Films appears to have plans to redo Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo's Livid, which the Weinstein Co. genre division picked up in July. IMDb Pro has few details other than a 2013 release and producer credits for Franck Ribière and Vérane Frédiani, both of whom worked on the original French horror flick. And I can't find any reports on this development, which may just be an obligatory filing for the movie database these days. 

The irony from my viewpoint regarding these quick remakes of hot foreign titles is this: Hollywood currently depends so much on international markets to make money off its own films. What would happen if a lot of other countries started remaking American blockbusters instead of releasing the originals? I guess studios would still earn something off the rights (unless the remakes are unofficial, like many of India's Hollywod redos), but it sure wouldn't be good for our domestic talent, on screen and off. 

If the adaptations of The Raid and Livid are interesting, a la Let Me In, I welcome them. But I encourage everyone to support foreign films, too, even if only those in the action and horror categories. Tons of excited moviegoers attending Fantastic Fest (which will be showing Livid but not The Raid, because Sony pulled it) can't be wrong, you know. 

Here's what others are saying about immediate, likely redundant remakes of great foreign films, with specific focus this time on The Raid. First, a recall of our own Mike Bracken's reponse from earlier:

"Even more troubling is what this news means for fans waiting for the original. Screen Gems and Sony handled the remake of Paco Plaza and Jaume Balaguero’s horror film Rec a few years back – and they held the American release of Rec up for ages so that the remake Quarantine could come out first. If that happens again, American action fans could be waiting for well over a year before they get a chance to see Evans’ newest film. That would be a tragedy." - Mike Bracken, Movies.com

"If I were a big Hollywood type wanting to make some money, I think I'd want to capitalize on the terrific word of mouth for THE RAID, the Indonesian action film that made some big waves at the Toronto International Film Festival recently. The one problem I would have, though, is that the film is full of unmarketable, non-English speaking brown people. What's a rich white person to do?!" - George Merchan, JoBlo.com

"While I understand the purpose of remaking certain foreign films in order to bring a great story to a new audience, in the case of action films like this I just don’t see how a remake makes any sense. Sure, mainstream moviegoers hate to read subtitles, but in an action movie without much dialogue, does it really matter? All I can say is that this remake better not get in the way of a decent theatrical release for the original film. Based on how Sony seemingly shafted [REC] in favour of Quarantine, I’d say that is a distinct possibility." - Sean Dwyer, Film Junk

"I’m really sick of remakes. I’m even more sick of foreign movie remakes because half the time the foreign market just knows how to make better cinema these days and Hollywood can’t admit that. I mean compare the Spanish REC to QUARANTINE. The American version was okay, but holds no candle to how scary REC was. Look at THE GRUDGE to JU-ON, GRUDGE had cheap scares and better CGI, JU-ON knew how to keep you uneasy and suspenseful. Don’t even get me started on SHUTTER. Hollywood just likes to shit on the original work, continuously believing that they can make a better movie, because why? Because they’re American. I’m as patriotic as the next guy, but to have such blind arrogance to believe that we can take someone else’s work and assume that we can make it better by spitting on it is just fucked up. I’m sick of all of it." - Pumpkin Escobar, Infamous Kidd

"The Americanization process will be interesting, and perhaps doomed—the original relies on the Indonesian martial art silat to flavor the action.  It will be difficult to return the lightning to the bottle." - Brendan Bettinger, Collider

"So it seems that the new recourse isn’t to acquire films so that a wider audience can be privy to the art, but to remake it with young up-and-comers that will likely bring a completely different (possibly terrible) take on the film before we, the frustrated audience members, get to even see the original." - Matt Raub, The Flick Cast

"The concern that arises with remaking this film is that its country of origin is a big part of its impact. Many of the action sequences in the film employ a specific type of martial arts called silat, native to Southeast Asia, that focuses on striking and the use of bladed weapons. Not that the actors in the American remake can’t mimic this style, but it would be precisely that, mimicry. Also, the safety standards for stuntmen in Southeast Asia are not as stringent as they are here. If you watch films like Thailand’s Born to Fight, wherein a stuntman falls between two moving semis narrowly avoiding having his skull crushed, you’ll understand what I mean. Not that endangering lives for the sake of capturing great action scenes is something to condone, but it will make those intense moments hard to recreate." - Brian Salisbury, Cinema Blend

"Obviously concerned [...] when have action remakes in Hollywood ever turned out better than the original, especially with the original film already receiving so much acclaim?" - Alex Billington, First Showing

"As groan-worthy as it may be, it’s very hard to argue with this kind of logic anymore. Consider Attack the Block, which seems to have finally admitted defeat and packed up its theatrical run, after months of web build-up and great buzz [...] I assume Screen Gems foresees a similar fate for the The Raid, as it’s simply not going to crossover and do real American business without some homogenizing. They’re right unfortunately, but I really fear they’re going to get a workman director to cheaply replicate the action, slap longer lenses on the (3D?) camera, engineer the action out of smeared coverage in the edit bay, and completely fuck up the appeal of the whole thing in the process." - Renn Brown, Chud.com

"It’s a great irony: genre films tend to be the first movies that get picked up for remakes after festival success, but they’re also the films that tend to earn a fanbase that is particularly vocal in opposition to remakes." - Russ Fischer, /Film


@elmayimbe: Theyre remaking THE RAID which means theyre doing it with white people.

@phil_upallnight: @elmayimbe I would disagree. I bet there'll be plenty of black and Hispanic bad guys!

@AzMyst: Big surprise. Hollywood wants to remake The Raid. Saw the intense trailer for the Indonesian flick. IT DOES NOT NEED A REMAKE!!!

 

Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join in The Conversation.

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