SPOILER ALERT: A-Line takes you through famous Asian movies and their American re-makes. This piece also appeared in the Fall 2009 issue.
By Diana Huynh
Remake: A cursed tape. A phone call. Seven days. Rachel (Naomi Watts) is a journalist who, at the request of her sister, starts to investigate the cause of her niece’s mysterious death. Rachel manages to find the tape by retracing her niece’s steps, but she only has a week to decipher the tape’s message before they all die. [3.5 out of 5]
Original: Asakawa Reiko (Nanako Matsushima) is a reporter investigating the popularity of a mysterious videotape among Japan’s teenagers. She soon discovers that her niece watched the video with her friends before they all died. With the help of her ex-husband, she attempts to track down the origin of the curse to save her family. [3.5 out of 5]
Differences: The two versions share the same basic story of the cursed tape and the three leading characters, but unique extra facts separate the two movies.
In “Ringu,” the ex-husband and the girl’s mother have ESP (Extra Sensory Perception). So when he and Asakawa searched for information, he was able to get in touch with the victims’ spirits. The ESP also explains the mother’s eventual insanity. “The Ring,” however, gave hints through artistic symbolism. One example would be the tree on the hill, which represented life and death with the change of lighting.
The Departed vs. Infernal Affairs
Remake: Notorious Irish Mob boss Francis “Frank” Costello (Jack Nicolson) plants Colin Sullivan (Matt Damon) within the Massachusetts State Police. At the same time, Billy Costigan, Jr. (Leonardo DiCaprio) is working undercover for the cops to keep tabs on the mafia. Things get heated when both sides realize there’s a mole. [4 out of 5]
Original: Chen Wing-Yan (Tony Leung Chiu-Wai) is an undercover cop infiltrating the Triad society, and Triad member Lau Kin-Ming (Andy Lau Tak-Wah) is planted in the police department. Things get complicated when Chen and Lau’s lives overlap with their work. [4.5 out of 5]
Differences: The biggest difference between the two versions is the focus on morality. The lessons behind “Infernal Affairs” is that one is linked to the Asian belief in karma and external suffering. The ‘Infernal’ of the title is a reference to hell. Yan’s good intentions spare him from suffering. He is shot and presumably ascends to heaven, while Ming has to suffer living with the burden of his crimes. In “The Departed,” both characters die at the end to represent the American perspective that betrayal usually means death.
My Sassy Girl vs. My Sassy Girl
Remake: Charlie (Jesse Bradford) finds himself taking care of a drunken girl who passes out in the subway. But helping her just leads him into trouble. One moment, Jordan (Elisha Cuthbert) is happy, the next, she’s crying. She expresses her affection in a way that is seemingly abusive, but he falls in love with her anyway. [2.5 out of 5]
Original: Kyun-Woo (Cha Tae-Hyun), a kind-hearted college student, saves a drunk girl (Jun Ji Hyun) from falling onto the subway tracks. She calls him “honey” before passing out, and without a choice, he takes care of her. This begins their unconventionally tough, yet destined, relationship. [4 out of 5]
Differences: Between the two stories, the stark contrast lies in the type of love portrayed. A youthful and naïve spark led the original relationship and while the American version replicates many of the same scenes, the American version failed to draw the same emotions out of the audience.
Differences also lie in the manner in which the female characters treated their partners. Perhaps driven by cultural definitions of extreme actions, the Korean girl seems much more physically abusive than Jordan in the American version. In fact, the Korean girl is so unrealistically physically abusive that it is considered comical, whereas Jordan kept her actions within cultural limits without exceeding domestic violence.