Weinsteins giving us English language remakes of Come Drink With Me and The Avenging Eagle

Chang Pei-Pei come drink with me
[adrotate banner=”1″]Welcome to a world where we suddenly get English language remakes of the classic Shaw Brothers features Come Drink With Me (大醉侠) and The Avenging Eagle (冷血十三鹰), complete with “international casts”. Yep, it’s THIS world! Weinstein Co. is teaming up with Celestial to bring us remakes no one was asking for.

The fact that Shaw Brothers films are being remade isn’t really what I have an issue with (heck, Shaw remade films all the time, Come Drink With Me has been sort of redone as a tv series!) It’s the fact they are being made entirely as an international focused feature instead of telling a good story first and worrying about box office second. Telling clues like “preliminary thought is to have international casts for both pictures,” give away their plan.

This is the further evolution of the Editing for China model that movies have been doing – producing content specifically designed for China. In fact, I would wager these films will be budgeted so that they become profitable entirely on Chinese box office alone. I really don’t think they will find a real audience in the US beyond special screenings/limited releases. The announcement hints more titles are in development, though these two will be the testing ground. Everything depends on who is cast. I will also expect that the film’s marketing in the US will try to play up the Quentin Tarantino connections as he likes these films (and was even attached as the director of a remake of Come Drink With Me waaaaaay back in 2007!)

What is odd is the target audience in the US includes the types of people who will be mad that these are being remade! Luckily, the exact titles are obscure enough for a fan who just buys the occasional martial arts film, but those that live and breath Asian cinema are far less likely to be pleased. That vague “international casts” thing means we might have random white people wandering around Ancient China. Or it will just be a Man with the Iron Fists redux, in which case enjoy losing lots of money, Weinsteins!

John Fusco is attached to write both the scripts, he wrote the Young Guns movies and is writing the Crouching Tiger sequel. Fusco is a black belt in Shaolin Kung Fu and is friends with Jet Li, so he’s not a complete unknown to the world of martial arts.

Full text of the announcement:

New York, NY – July 23, 2013 – The Weinstein Company (TWC) and Celestial Pictures Limited (Celestial Pictures) announced today that they are partnering on remakes of two classic 1970s martial arts titles: THE AVENGING EAGLE and COME DRINK WITH ME. Both original films are part of the renowned Shaw Brothers library, the largest Chinese-language feature film library in the world. The two films with TWC will mark Celestial Pictures’ first English-language martial arts remakes of Shaw Brothers’ films. Harvey Weinstein and David Thwaites will be producing; John Fusco, who is also set to pen the screenplay for the upcoming sequel CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON II: THE GREEN DESTINY, is confirmed to write both projects.

In the thriller THE AVENGING EAGLE, a cabal master known as King Eagle raises orphans to be his own personal thugs in an outlaw band called The Thirteen Eagles – The Assassins Of The Iron Boat Clan. One of the orphans decides to rebel and strike out on his own, leading the rest of the group to want him dead. He joins up with a mysterious warrior and proceeds to take down King Eagle. The original film, directed by Sun Chung, was released in Hong Kong in 1978, winning awards such as “The Most Outstanding Actor” (Ti Lung) at the Asian Film Festival and “Best Editing for Drama” (Chiang Hsing-loong) at The Golden Horse Awards.

A ruthless band of thugs kidnap a young official as hostage to exchange for their captured leader in COME DRINK WITH ME. The prisoner’s sister, highly skilled martial artist Golden Swallow, is sent to free him. Although she is able to handle the overwhelming odds, she is hit by a poison dart, and needs help from a beggar who is really a Kung-Fu master in disguise. With his help, she forms a plan to get her brother back. The original film was directed by King Hu, who is best known for directing various wuxia (Kung-Fu) films in the 1960s and 1970s. This was his first success and remains a classic of the wuxia genre, catapulting the then 20-year-old starlet Cheng Pei-pei (CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON) to fame. The original film, released in Hong Kong in 1966, participated in various film festivals such as New York Film Festival, Festival de Cannes and Tokyo International Film Festival.

Said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein: “Shaw Brothers and Sir Run Run Shaw were responsible for ushering some of the first great, legendary Asian filmmakers and acting talent onto the world stage. It’s an exciting opportunity to be bringing new life to these two classic films and taking them into the global market with Celestial Pictures.”

“Audiences in Asia and indeed the world over have enjoyed classic titles from the Shaw Brothers library for decades,” commented Ralph Marshall, Director of Celestial Pictures. “With Harvey Weinstein and TWC, we have the best possible partners to reinvent THE AVENGING EAGLE and COME DRINK WITH ME for a new generation. With further productions in development, and the imminent release of library titles globally on digital platforms, Celestial Pictures will continue to showcase its rich, enthralling and iconic stories and characters in new and innovative ways”.

The deal for THE AVENGING EAGLE and COME DRINK WITH ME was negotiated by David Glasser for TWC with Kristen Tong for Celestial Pictures.

Crouching Sequel, Hidden Problems

Michelle Yeoh
[adrotate banner=”1″]A sequel to Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon has awoken from slumber and possibly snagged Michelle Yeoh to reprise her role of Yu Shu Lien. Fans of wuxia stories will know that Crouching Tiger is actually the fourth book in a series. The fifth book Silver Vase, Iron Knight is what will become the next feature. The Weinstein Company is behind this new film, having secured the rights of Wang Du-Lu’s Crane-Iron Series (though it seems Wang’s heirs aren’t happy at the amount of money, so expect some lawsuits eventually!) and are bringing Ronny Yu to direct the sequel, with John Fusco (The Forbidden Kingdom) having written the script.

Fusco says

“This introduces a new generation of star-crossed lovers, and a new series of antagonists in a battle of good and evil. It has a Knights Errant quality. There is an alternate universe in the books, a martial forest that exists alongside the real world, full of wandering sword fighters, medicine men, defrocked priests, poets, sorcerers and Shaolin renegades. It’s so vast and rich, and I found characters from the second and third books in the series to create a most interesting stew while being as true to the source material as I could be.”

How good this ends up being will be a mystery, though I seriously doubt it will approach Crouching Tiger in quality. I say that not as a pessimist, but a realist. I can be perfectly fine on its own laurels, but it will be burdened with the association to the original classic.

Deadline via Twitch