Having helmed the outstanding trilogy consisting of Lady Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Park Chan-wook has proven that he’s an expert at serving cold dishes of cinematic revenge better than most. The South Korean director’s movies also tend to contain moments of brutal, shocking violence, which is why he’s the perfect candidate to helm the long-gestating western The Brigands of Rattlecreek.
According to Collider, Chan-wook will adapt S. Craig Zahler’s script, which topped the 2006 Black List, for Amazon Studios. Previously titled The Brigands of Rattleborge, the story follows two men who team up and embark on a vengeance crusade after a group of bandits pillage and slaughter their way through their town one night under the cover of rainfall. Matthew McConaughey is being touted for one of the leading parts, and another A-list star is expected to join him.
Chan-wook has been linked with the project since 2012, but for whatever reason, the movie never materialized. Tom Cruise, Brad Pitt, and Leonardo DiCaprio were all interested in starring at various stages as well, but previous rights owners Warner Bros. were resistant to make it happen.
Perhaps this is because westerns aren’t a guaranteed box office attraction. Despite the success of Django Unchained, The Hateful Eight, and The Revenant since then, studio westerns are still few and far between. Furthermore, Brigands isn’t exactly what you’d call friendly for mainstream audiences seeking a crowd-pleaser. It’s an ambitious project that requires a significant budget, but it’s also far from a conventional action-adventure yarn. Zahler’s work tends to venture into some very dark places, and sometimes those R ratings scare studios.
The original Brigands script is also very character-driven and spends 60 pages introducing us to the people who populate its pages. The majority of the characters, no matter how disposable they are in the grand scheme of things, feel like three-dimensional human beings with interesting lives. Some will find this element of the movie compelling, whereas others will see it as unnecessary fat. That said, whether or not the upcoming film stays loyal to the original draft remains to be seen.
I can’t see Chan-wook toning down the violence or opting to make something more conventional, though. Chances are he agreed to make this movie because it’s unlike anything the western genre has produced in the past. The director’s filmography boasts plenty of unique gems that stray from tried and tested formulas. He too loves strong characters, dark subject matter, and flipping expectations. If anyone can do this story justice, it’s the guy who made Oldboy.
Needless to say, Chan-wook isn’t exactly a director-for-hire. Therefore, he’ll want to implement some of his own ideas here. I suspect the upcoming movie won’t be a retread of the original script, but this is an exciting notion to think about. While Brigands won’t turn out to be like the movie Zahler had in mind when he wrote it, Chan-wook’s interpretation of the material will most certainly be fascinating.
Amazon is a good home for this project too. Chan-wook marks the latest acclaimed filmmaker to work with the studio as they seek to create original content to compete in the streaming wars. Here’s hoping that he’s given substantial creative freedom to bring his vision to life, because under his supervision Brigands of Rattlecreek has the potential to be a special film.