Deadline reported yesterday that Daniel Dae-Kim and Randall Park will co-star and co-produce a heist film featuring an Asian-American cast and that the project has been acquired by Amazon after a bidding war. Obviously I love everything about this, including how Young Il Kim, who wrote the screenplay, tweeted about the news:
I am 100% certain my parents will print this article out and mail to my relatives in Korea because...— Young Il Kim ê¹€ì˜ì¼ (@theyoungilkim) August 18, 2020
SAVE THE POST OFFICE! https://t.co/0nmeEJvdRW
Daniel and Randall have been friends a long time. They’re not revealing plot details (it’s a heist film after all) but the story is about two high school friends who evidently come back together to pull off a job. The fact that everyone in town, from studios to streaming services, is interested and willing to put money behind it is encouraging – because there was a time, not too long ago, when you probably couldn’t get more than a meeting, at best two, to pitch an idea like this. Two years ago though, after the success of Crazy Rich Asians, the momentum started to shift. Daniel’s career moves over the last few years also had an impact.
You’ll recall, a few years ago, Daniel and Grace Park left Hawaii Five-0 after being denied pay equity with the white actors on the show, Alex O’Loughlin and Scott Caan. Daniel then went on to produce The Good Doctor, which is actually based on a South Korean series by the same name that aired in 2013. After acquiring the rights, he pitched it to CBS where he was signed for Hawaii Five-0. They turned it down. So he took it to Sony instead and eventually ABC picked up the series, which is now one of the most highly rated on network television.
Now he’s got studios and streamers throwing money at the movie he’s making with his friend. And together they’re creating more opportunities for other Asian talent.
As for the story itself, Daniel told Deadline that:
“I think it has nods to Ocean’s 11, The Full Monty as well as Better Luck Tomorrow.”
Have you seen Better Luck Tomorrow? It was directed by Justin Lin, before he went on to direct several installments of the Fast Furious franchise. There’s a story associated with Better Luck Tomorrow involving Roger Ebert that I always think about. He loved the film, gave it four stars, actually put it on his list of the best films of 2003. When Better Luck Tomorrow screened at Sundance, during the Q&A, an audience member asked the filmmakers why they would make a movie that depicted Asians in such a negative light. Here’s what Roger Ebert did:
Better Luck Tomorrow, which you can stream on Amazon Prime, is about a group of apathetic overachieving Asian students who end up getting involved in criminal activity, addicted to the rush of breaking the rules after being expected to follow all the rules. At least that’s how I related to the film. At the same time, I also related to Crazy Rich Asians because, well, who doesn’t want to see themselves in a rom-com. And who doesn’t love a heist movie? There’s a reason why they keep making them. That’s where Daniel Dae-Kim and Randall Park are heading next and of the three inspirations that Daniel cited in the quote above, probably Oceans 11 is the one most familiar to most of you reading this.
There is however a strong tradition of heist movies in East Asian cinema. The first film that came to mind when I learned of Daniel and Randall’s new project is John Woo’s Once a Thief, the film from 1991 (also available at Prime) starring Chow Yun Fat, Cheri Chung, and my beloved Leslie Cheung. It was huge in Hong Kong – and while western critics don’t consider it one of John Woo’s stronger efforts, the film obsessed an entire generation. More recently, in 2012, The Thieves, which some have called East Asia’s answer to Oceans, featuring a Korean and Hong Kong ensemble cast, was a huge success in South Korea. The Thieves is available to rent on iTunes.
My point is that there’s a rich heist history outside of western cinema and an audience beyond the west for heist movies. And interestingly enough, with Daniel and Randall’s idea, obviously there’s the possibility of a franchise, just like Crazy Rich Asians. Probably getting ahead of ourselves here, but that’s the next step, right? That’s where you keep pushing.
Next conversation, but for another time: casting this heist movie. I have suggestions!
Yours in gossip,