John Woo is Remaking ‘The Killer’ With Lupita Nyong’o

This sounds like a match made in action movie heaven.

This sounds like a match made in action movie heaven.

Ever read a movie announcement and just felt like it was tailor-made for your specific interests? That’s what this “new” John Woo film sounds like. Not only is the legendary director making a comeback in his old filmmaking style again, but he’s specifically remaking one of his best 1980s action films, The Killer, with an impeccable leading lady front and center: Lupita Nyong’o.

Deadline reports that Nyong’o is set to play a new version of the assassin originated by Chow Yun-fat in the 1989 film. The Killer remake has been in and out of production for several years under different creative teams. A Tristar film inspired by the original was pitched in the 1990s, and was to involve Denzel Washington and Richard Gere. Years later, in 2007, a remake was announced with John H. Lee (A Moment to Rememberslated to direct.

The current iteration of the remake of The Killer is being set up at Universal, and the project is being fast-tracked with Woo behind the camera. Scriptwriting duties were delegated to Eran Creevy (Collide) after an initial draft was penned by the team of Josh Campbell and Matt Stuecken (10 Cloverfield Lane). Brian Helgeland (L.A. Confidential) will add on to Creevy’s script too. The remake will be a re-imagination of the source material and is set to include elements of espionage.

The original film follows a hired killer who’s been in the triad business for a while. However, his final job sends his world into a tailspin when he accidentally partially blinds a bar singer during a shootout. His guilt over the incident compels him to aid her to get surgery to recover her sight, and the characters fall in love in the process. In a parallel plot, the killer has to also dodge a tenacious police officer who is hot on his heels –someone who looks to be his match in skill and determination.

The Killer impeccably blends the slickest action sequences with a surprisingly effective moralistic dilemma for its characters built on strong relationships, resulting in a taut and emotional journey. There’s a healthy dose of melodrama and existentialism, but that adds so much weight to the story that it’s not really a complaint. It’s pretty much a near-perfect action movie in my book.

Chow Yun-fat’s role in The Killer — as well as his involvement in other John Woo movies — made him a staple action star. Chow’s ability to embody both the supposedly cold-blooded killer and the flawed man with a healthy dose of inner demons is virtually unmatched in the film, but Nyong’o would totally be up for the task of interpreting that in the context of being a woman in the western world. The prospect of Nyong’o being crowned a bona fide action star after this remake is a real treat, especially now that action heroines are having a moment.

Getting to play an assassin with a conscience would be a great extension of Nyong’o’s role in Black Panther, which has shot her to further stardom after her Academy Award win for 12 Years a Slave a few years ago and her role as Maz Kanata in the Star Wars sequels. 12 Years a Slave and Star Wars just prove that she can act like hell in just about anything, whether it’s a live-action performance or something computer-generated. But in playing Nakia in Black Panther, Nyong’o got the opportunity to portray both the badassery and sensitivity, creating a wholly unique Marvel heroine that provided a lot of heart and hope.

Nyong’o’s as-yet-unnamed protagonist in The Killer would feasibly have similar motivations to Nakia, except perhaps with a less charitable outlook on the world. What I’m also keeping my eyes peeled for is who gets to play her romantic interest and direct adversary respectively. This is especially important with regards to the former role. Sally Yeh’s Jenny, the woman who unwittingly comes into the crosshairs of Chow’s assassin and the world of the triads, is far from the most empowered female character in the original Killer. Whoever plays her counterpart in the remake — and I’m gunning for a woman still to do it — could do with being more proactive.

The only minor concern regarding the existing team for The Killer remake would be Eran Creevy, whose work hasn’t been very well-received. His most recent directorial and writing effort, Collide, is more of a shell of an action film than anything too engaging. It has all the right archetypes of the genre, but sports characters that have no bite or personality to them.

However, perhaps the combined efforts of Creevy, Campbell, Stuecken, and Helgeland will result in a more well-rounded script that preserves the complex spirit of the original. Plus, there’s obviously Woo’s own directorial flair to bank on; a style that, more often than not, includes just the right emotional beats and some perfectly executed action sequences.

Nyong’o continues to own 2018 as The Killer remake is just one of a number of amazing projects coming up for her. She is also prepping The Woman King with Viola Davis, and a Trevor Noah biopic as part of a varied upcoming slate.

Sheryl Oh: Sheryl Oh often finds herself fascinated (and let's be real, a little obsessed) with actors and their onscreen accomplishments, developing Film School Rejects' Filmographies column as a passion project. She's not very good at Twitter but find her at @sherhorowitz anyway. (She/Her)