Spike Lee & Denzel Washington’s Next Movie Collaboration Already Faces 1 Big Problem

By z20z.com 6 Min Read

Summary

  • Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s previous collaborations have been highly acclaimed, but their new project, a remake of “High and Low,” already faces a major issue.
  • Lee’s previous attempt at remaking a classic Asian film, “Oldboy,” was a critical and commercial failure, which raises concerns about their upcoming film.
  • The differences in storytelling sensibilities between Western and Eastern filmmakers make American remakes of Asian movies often fall short in capturing the essence of the original.


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Spike Lee and Denzel Washington’s collaborations have resulted in the production of some of the best movies that cinema has ever seen, but their next team-up, High and Low, already has one big issue. While the news of Lee and Washington’s High and Low remake of Akira Kurosawa’s classic 1963 film is exciting, it already faces a major issue, as evidenced by an oft-forgotten project of the auteur director from 2013. Known primarily for his unapologetic handling of themes of race, class, and the socio-economic factors that shape and impact various communities of color, Lee’s upcoming movie with Washington is ripe with promise.


Although Lee and Washington haven’t collaborated on a film since 2006’s acclaimed Inside Man, their collaborations have already solidified their partnership as one of the best, easily ranking among the likes of Martin Scorsese and Robert DeNiro or Quentin Tarantino and Samuel L. Jackson. However, one crucial element of Lee and Washington’s upcoming movie is worrying despite it reuniting the duo for the first time in 18 years. While the subjects and issues covered in the Kurosawa classic are apt for the legendary Japanese filmmaker’s career, they likely won’t translate well despite Lee’s vision.


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Spike Lee’s Last Attempt At Remaking A Classic Asian Movie Was Oldboy

Lee’s Oldboy was a critical and commercial failure that hurt the original’s reputation.

Samuel L. Jackson as Chaney looks at a box cutter held by an off-screen Josh Brolin as Joe Doucett in Oldboy.

An American remake of High and Low is always a risky proposition. The 1963 police procedural crime drama saw the late Toshiro Mifune work in perfect harmony with Kurosawa’s operatic-like directing style, resulting in an undeniable classic. Unfortunately, Lee’s last attempt at remaking a classic Asian film saw the filmmaker tackle Park Chan-wook’s 2003 classic thriller, Oldboy, to disappointing results. While Lee received praise from critics for deviating from his usual subjects and themes with his 2013 remake of Oldboy, it was rife with many issues that hindered its success.


Although several factors contributed to Oldboy‘s failure, such as the lack of creativity regarding the handling of the original film’s narrative, Lee’s relatively safe approach to Oldboy‘s themes of revenge in comparison to the original film is ultimately the remake’s greatest weakness. Additionally, Oldboy‘s original director had mixed feelings about Lee’s version, as he admired the approach to his work, but ultimately felt like it didn’t do enough to innovate the original story. While Lee’s first remake attempt failed, it speaks volumes to Hollywood’s common issue of making poorly received remakes of classics in Asian cinema.

Spike Lee’s
Oldboy
remake is available on Amazon Prime Video.

Why American Remakes Of Classic Asian Movies Generally Fail

The different approaches to Western and Eastern filmmaking often don’t blend.

Lakeith Stanfield as L and Nat Wolff as Light Yagami in a scene from Netflix's Death Note.


One of the reasons why most Hollywood remakes of Asian films fail is because of the differences in sensibilities between Western and Eastern filmmakers. Most Asian films benefit from more nuanced and subtle storytelling, often relying on limited dialogue and bold visuals to help convey messages. American movies, on the other hand, benefit from dialogue-heavy extravaganzas that, sadly, often contain more style than substance. Lee’s Oldboy paid many visual homages to the original, but it also lacked the strong emotional connection the original was able to establish through its visuals.


Additionally, one must consider the socio-economic, political, and cultural differences that make movies from different parts of the world special. Although Martin Scorsese’s The Departed is an exception to the rule regarding Hollywood’s interpretation of classic Asian films, it largely works because it pretty much feels more like its own thing rather than a one-to-one remake. Oldboy 2013 was more or less a shot-for-shot remakeof the original, but it lacked the commitment to portraying the same level of violence that made 2003’s Oldboy so special. While Lee and Washington are no doubt great, their announced plan to remake High and Low is already troubling.


Oldboy

Release Date
November 21, 2003

Director
Park Chan-wook

Cast
Choi Min-sik , Yoo Ji-tae , Kang Hye-jung , Kim Byeong-Ok , Oh Tae-kyung , Yoon Jin-seo , Woo Il-han , Ji Dae-Han

Runtime
120 Minutes

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