With the astounding success of last year's remake of the Japanese hit Ringu made in America with Naomi Watts and called The Ring, you can almost hear Hollywood shouting for joy at their windfall. Take a tried and true foreign project, add pretty white stars, shake gently and voila! Box office gold. Which is why the rule of thumb going forward should always be, seek out the foreign original and leave the remakes to the chumps.
Case in point, the recently released in US markets Infernal Affairs from Hong Kong. Word has it that Brad Pitt is working on the remake, but how could they possibly improve on the Tony Leung/Andy Lau original? It's the story of a cop and a gangster, former best friends and both working undercover to get their group ahead. Only the most savvy will be ahead of this plot enough to guess what could possibly happen next. The rest of us just go along for the ride, enjoying the thrilling action, great performances and complex story. Asian audiences have loved this match up so much, they've made it into a trilogy just like the Ringu series. Watching the original, which played at last year's New Director's series at Lincoln Center, you'll understand why.
While the reviews for Criminal, the recent remake of the Argentinean heist movie Nine Queens, have been pretty positive, we'd still urge you to seek out the original. A more seasoned flim flam man and his newer, younger assistant attempt to counterfeit and then resell a group of highly rare stamps with the assistance of the flim flam man's straight-laced sister.
Like Infernal Affairs, Nine Queens is for the movie viewer who lives to out-think the plot, whispering their predictions to their friends as the film unspools. However, we suggest you reserve your judgment until the final frame because even the most prescient might be surprised by the twists.