“Oldboy” was quite clearly one of the ten best movies of the first decade of the new millennium. This visual treat with an intelligent design was directed by one of the finest in the world: Chan-wook Park. Those who have enjoyed this Korean director’s revenge trilogy that includes “Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance” and “Lady Vengeance” as well as his equally extraordinary “JSA: Joint Security Area” cannot help but wonder what he would do with the shot at using all the money and resources available in an English-language film. The wait is over, but the mystery remains.
Park’s Hollywood directorial debut is titled “Stoker.” Other than that, not much is known. Nicole Kidman has been part of the cast for some time, but now comes word that the Oscar bump has officially been conferred upon Colin Firth. We know the title, we know the director, we know the barest bones of the plot and now we know that the stuttering monarch from “The King’s Speech” will be trying to parlay his Academy Award into a career that offers so much more than playing second banana to Hugh Grant.
The addition of Firth clearly ups the ante when it comes to acting talent in “Stoker.” Pair that with the fact that the movie is being directed by a man who is clearly one of the top five directors working in the world at the moment and…what?
A few decades ago, Ingmar Bergman was one of the five best directors in the world. In fact, he was probably the best director in the world, bar none. After putting out a number of bona fide masterpieces in his native Swedish, Bergman was given the chance to satisfy the suits in Hollywood. The unlikely casting of David Carradine in the lead of “The Serpent’s Egg” was just the first indication that directing a movie in English may not have been the greatest idea Bergman ever had. At least Bergman had the good sense to head back to Swedish-language films. John Woo did not take Bergman’s lead.
The esteemed Chinese director who made a name for himself with outlandish action films was also given the chance to direct in English. The results have not been, well, good. “Face/Off” is one of the worst movies of all time, “Mission Impossible II” was a complete mess and “Hard Target” suffered the worst fate of all: it starred Jean-Claude Van Damme.
Despite the fact that little more is known about “Stoker” than that it is the story of a mysterious appearance by an uncle to a teenaged niece whose father has recently died, one cannot help but expect that Park will prove far more successful in translating his talents into English. After all, he’s a better director than Woo and he’s got Colin Firth rather than Van Damme or Travolta.