What might the marriage of Arnold Schwarzenegger and Korean New Waver Kim Jee-woon bring?
On Monday, news broke that the ex-Republican Governor would make his return to the big screen in Lionsgate’s “Last Stand,” to be directed by South Korea maverick Kim Jee-woon, director of a string of idiosyncratic Korean films (“The Good, the Bad, the Weird,” “A Tale of Two Sisters” and “I Saw the Devil,” whose violent scenes were infamously censored by the Korean government for its local release).
Described by an insider to Deadline as a “‘The Fast And Furious’ at the border with high speed car chases, drug cartels and the like,” “Last Stand” reportedly focuses on an older Sheriff at a moral crossroads.
But what might this all look like through the lens of Kim, who has a penchant for extreme violence and stories about characters who are trapped, “by a combination of circumstance and character, and chronicle their mostly unsuccessful attempts to escape,” according to Mike Hale in a recent New York Times article, writing about a Kim retro in New York.
South Korea’s New Wave directors belong to a generation who grew up in the shadow of South Korea’s violent past. The country’s recent cycle of films focusing on violence and rage appear to be symptomatic of a kind of post-traumatic condition.
As critic Chuck Stephens once wrote, “Having undergone all the anguish of modern history – colonial oppression, civil war, national division, military autocracy – Korea, in its efforts to heal its wounds – has spewed a clot of blood which has left a red stain on Korean cinema.” (It’s interesting that this week it was also announced that Spike Lee would be remaking another Korean New Wave classic, Park Chan-wook’s “Old Boy.” American producers may be finding potentially commercial stories out of South Korea. but they’re also inheriting a load of political baggage, whether they admit it or not).
If Schwarzenegger takes on the role of vigilante border Sheriff, I suspect that we might be able to look at the film as reminiscent of the Korean national division that continues to haunt Lee’s own country. But then again, maybe seeing the former California Governator kicking Mexican ass isn’t really political subtext, after all, but an attempt to resurrect his right-wing political career.