Second Time (Un)Lucky?

I’ve no objection to remakes per se, it’s just that instead of taking a film whose potential wasn’t fully realised the first go round and doing it right, the powers that be invariably zero in on an undoubted classic and proceed to mess it up for the sake of making a quick buck at the box office.

Anyway, three remakes that I’ve watched recently.

And Soon the Darkness (2010)

Remake of a 1970 film in which girl cyclists Pamela Franklin and Michelle Dotrice fall foul of a sexual predator in France. For the remake the action is transplanted to Argentina, with Amber Heard and Odette Yustman given plenty of opportunity to strut round in short shorts and pose in their bikinis, after which the latter disappears and Heard spends the rest of the film looking for her. There’s a nicely menacing feel to the landscape, with lots of ruins and wide open spaces, deserted backroads and isolated towns which seem one step removed from civilisation. That said the action is all pretty much humdrum and touches on several clichés – the flirty girl gets into trouble while her friend remains pure and inviolate, the foreign folk have designs on sweet young Yankee flesh, the police are corrupt, and so on and so on. I enjoyed it in a pass the time sort of way, with Heard, who was a co-producer, pulling out all the stops to save her friend, but don’t think I’ll be in a hurry to see it again.

Assault on Precinct 13 (2005)

Remake of a 1976 film, an early outing for John Carpenter, in which a teen gang besieges a police station that is scheduled to close shortly, with cops and prisoners joining forces to fight them off. In the remake instead of juvies we have a heavily armed squad of corrupt police officers who wish to get their hands on prisoner Bishop, and it all takes place on New Year’s Eve so the police secretary has a credible pretext to turn up in a skimpy outfit. Ethan Hawke stars as flawed hero Sgt. Jake Roenick, a cop with confidence issues in the wake of losing an officer under his command, but who manages to overcome them and get everybody to pull together. It’s pretty much what you’d expect, with plenty of fire fights, in fighting and betrayal, though I’m not sure how the action manages to get relocated from a city police station to a forest for the finale, or come to that what the rest of the city is up to while this enclave gets turned into downtown Baghdad on a bad day. In a nice twist the good girl gets shot and the bad (i.e. flirtatious) girl lives to fight and save the day. Laurence Fishburne as stone cold killer with a sense of honour Bishop is the most memorable thing about it. Bishop aside, it was nothing to get excited about, just a good, solid entertainer along almost wholly predictable lines, right down to the Jake getting back his mojo ending.

The Stepford Wives (2004)

Remake of the 1975 film, based on a book by Ira Levin. After her career goes into freefall TV executive Joanna has a nervous breakdown and suffers from depression, so her husband takes her to the picture perfect Connecticut town of Stepford. But something strange is going on in Stepford – all the wives have gone from successful career women to home bodies more interested in baking and hair care products than they are business affairs. When her only friend in the town is transformed overnight, Joanna snaps out of her torpor and goes into investigative journalist mode, zeroing in on the Stepford Men’s Association like a heat seeking missile. The original played it straight and was a mildly unsettling depiction of misogyny taken to an extreme, the men replacing real women with real personalities with clockwork toys who’ll do everything they want, and personally I found the premise rather shaky, except as metaphor in action. For the remake they seem to have realised how hokey it all is and have reworked the material as comedy, making the ultimate villain a woman, who acts as she does because… Well I couldn’t quite figure that out. Of the cast, lead Nicole Kidman seems almost as stilted as one of the walking, talking, living dolls she’s supposed to become, and is only undershadowed by partner Matthew Broderick (but he’s meant to be a milquetoast). Christopher Walken and Bette Midler are excellent, while Glenn Close gives a passable impression of a certifiable nut case. There’s some snappy dialogue and a few impressive visual gags, but overall it doesn’t give us enough to laugh at and seems slightly unsure of itself, as if the 1975 original cast its long shadow over the production and what there was of originality wilted in the shade. The true love conquers all end twist was a bit too much for my liking – I wanted Joanna to belt her partner silly for dragging her into this mess, not help him find his inner Romeo. I’m probably going to watch it again though, so there must have been something there that appealed, even if I’m not entirely clear on what it was.

Okay, anyone else seen any good remakes recently?

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