The Weinstein era of Miramax was infamous for many things. They came with big money and bigger balls to film festivals to gobble up acquisitions. They strong-armed Oscar campaigns like few others could. They empowered maverick directors like Robert Rodriguez and Quentin Tarantino to do what other studios wouldn’t allow. But for many film geeks, they’ll forever be known as the studio where Asian films came to die. From Shaolin Soccer to Iron Monkey to Tears of the Black Tiger (which was just recently rescued by Magnolia Pictures from a lengthy sentence in the Miramax vaults), film after heralded film after heralded film was acquired from the East and was recut, retitled, and generally shat upon, if they were ever released at all. Arguably, they’re solely responsible for sabotaging the strong wave of Asian action/martial arts pics from the late 90s/early 00s and crippling the Hollywood prospects of more than a few foreign auteurs.
With that being said, it’s understandable if you gnash your teeth in fury at today’s news of The Weinstein Company getting into the Asian film business full-on. But their second trip to the plate has a few key differences. First, they’ve established a film fund of $275 million that’s being overseen by Goldman Sachs. The fund is strictly for Asian-made or Asian-themed films and is being scoped for a six-year span. Additionally, the scope appears to be a little larger, if no more inspired, than their previous attempts. The inaugural effort will be the previously announced My Blueberry Nights. But after that, the next two films in development are a live-action version of Mulan (which could kick quite a bit of ass if done right) and a remake of the already remade The Seven Samurai.
Still, they not only have an abysmal track record at Miramax to answer for, but also the fairly recent exhibition of Tom Yum Goong, or as they so excitingly titled it, The Protector. There’s little I can say about that that CHUD’s own Jason Pollock didn’t already cover beautifully here, but suffice it to say, their version of the film was to bad what Nazi Germany was to evil. And with a stated goal of putting out some 30 movies in this deal, acquisitions will most likely be a major part of the output alongside originally-developed films. If they could be trusted to let their acquisitions fail or succeed on their own merit, this would be cause for celebration. But they can’t, plain and simple. The best we can hope for is that the material on their development slate demands their attention to the point where they don’t bother slashing up smaller, quirkier films that they come across and grant them a simple direct-to-DVD release. Anything else is asking for trouble.