You’ll have to pardon my ignorance of the Syndey Pollack’s 1974 cult neo-noir classic, The Yakuza, though it is that ignorance that perhaps makes it a decent movie to remake. If you’re going to remake a film, 36 years is a decent window of time to wait, particularly for a film that — groundbreaking though it may have been — wasn’t a huge hit with audiences at the time.
And the word I’m getting from The Hollywood Cog is that a remake of The Yakuza is indeed in the making over at Warner Brothers. In fact, a remake has quietly been in the works for years — Cinematical first reported back in 2005, and Bill Gerber (Dukes of Hazzard remake) was attached to produce (he still is). Television director, Gary Fleder, was also attached at some point (he no longer is).
After stalling for years, the remake seems to be gaining some momentum again (perhaps because of the death of Pollack?). There’s a certain irony, too, in the way that The Yakuza, which was originally written by Leonard Schrader (Taxi Driver, Raging Bull) and Robert Towne (Chinatown), is being developed, in that it is said to be in the vein of Black Rain, a Ridley Scott flick that owed a debt to the original Yakuza.
Of course Pollack’s original film about Japanese gangsters was layered and intelligent and deftly explored the contrast between Eastern and Western morals, as well as classic and modern Japanese traditions. The Yakuza remake, on the other hand, is expected to star Rain, who is kind of like the Korean Zac Efron. And if you’ve yet to see any of Rain’s American films (Ninja Assassin, Speed Racer), they have a certain way of defying intelligence.
Then again, in the case of Ninja Assassin, Rain also has a certain Japanese Statham-like quality that I found difficult to resist (though, it is my understanding that Prisco and I are mostly alone in our forbidden love of Ninja Assassin). See: Rain is kind of bad-ass.
Here, he’s attached to play the role originated by Takakura Ken (who was also in Black Rain). The remake’s plot will follow closely along with the original’s, though it will be set in contemporary Japan: It will center on an ex-CIA Agent recruited by a friend and mentor to help retrieve his friend’s daughter, who has been kidnapped by the Yakuza. The rescue mission, however, gets complicated when the ex-agent gets embroiled in a series of murders and double crosses involving the Japanese mob.
The script has gone through a few drafts, first by Oliver Butcher and Stephen Cornwell (who are on Guy Ritchie’s upcoming The Gamekeeper) and most recently by Peter Craig — who is also penning the American remake of Cowboy Bepop. A director has not yet come aboard, but once one does, I wouldn’t expect too many scheduling obstacles, as Rain is only officially attached to one other film at the moment, Awaken the Dragon. Ninja Assassin didn’t quite make him the American box-office star that perhaps he was hoping to be, though given the long development history behind The Yakuza, this film may never make him that star, either.