Ah, A Better Tomorrow! This remake brings me back to the days of trench-coats and ray-ban sunglasses. However, what really pleased me about this new version is that this was a solid effort that didn’t slavishly imitate the original. After all, this film has John Woo’s blessing, since he served as an executive producer. The pivotal early scenes which define the heroines’ stances and determine their fates are shifted to Thailand. Hyuk and Yong Choon are riding steady as partners in crime at the top of an arms trafficking gang. However, things change when Hyuk finally meets with his long-lost younger brother, Chul.
I went in not expecting to much from it, and didn’t care to much for the characters. However by the time I reached the end of the film I then realized how much I cared for characters, and how much I actually loved the film. Most memorable for me some time after the movie’s end is when a character, after shooting up a massage parlor loaded with bad guys and with only a minor wound in his shoulder, walks away with sunglasses on, trench-coat on, which is the ultimate bad ass homage. The biggest upset I could point out is that for a Woo involved film, this remake is slow to start, and it took some 30 minutes before the first major action sequence.
I could imagine some perfunctory enjoyment coming from the material, but the problem I had (and perhaps this is somewhat my fault and happens sometimes with Korean movies) was I couldn’t keep track of some of the principle characters. Also the role Chow Yun-Fat originally played is helmed by Song Seung-Heon who does a hell of a job. He does a good job matching the personality, quirks, and chrisma that the original legend brought to the role years ago. The foursome is rounded up by Jo Han-Sun, who puts the slime in the betrayer character. This role was played by Waise Lee in the original. With his odd mixture of goofball, Machiavellian and psychopath, Tae-min becomes the most flamboyant but least formidable role.
Action hounds can rejoice though, because once the film picks up there is plenty of bloodshed and violence. Enough so that the film ended up earning the film a NC16 rating. A Better Tomorrow does what many well-done U.S. remakes do: take the core ingredients, and gives it a 21st century sheen. After all, that should be what a remake is all about! Judged on its own merits, this was a very exciting, well put together film that kept me engrossed the entire time. Character development and suspense as well as the action was all top notch. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of Korean, Asian, or John Woo films. Make sure to pick up the Blu-Ray/DVD combo pack when it hits U.S. shores November 8th.