Bong Joon-ho's new sci-fi action/adventure film Snowpiercer features movie stars and Oscar winners, looks great, and is already a hit in Korea. But it's still unclear when we'll get to see it here in the U.S. and Harvey Weinstein may have something to do with that.
Variety's Patrick Frater reported this morning that the film—which tells the story of a class system on a train traveling around a dystopian world—won the South Korean box office for the second consecutive weekend. The film has passed 4 million ticket sales in record time for the country.
It's obviously not a given that a foreign hit will immediately translate to box office success in the U.S., but there's a catch with Snowpiercer. Though Bong is Korean, his film is an English-language one starring our very own Captain America, Chris Evans, alongside Oscar-winners Octavia Spencer and Tilda Swinton, who looks to be giving a fascinating performance, false teeth and all, as one of the leaders of the upper-class section of the train. Evans and Spencer are among the revolting members of the lower classes stuck on the train, which has perpetual motion engine that has kept members of the human race alive following a global warming experiment that caused an ice age. The film already got a fantastic review from The Hollywood Reporter's Clarence Tsui, who called it "an epic yet nuanced, contemplative yet entertaining vehicle that uses its titular locomotive as an allegory for human existence as we see it in the here and now."
The film, Frater explains, was something of a risk. Though $40 million may seem like chump change to the U.S. film industry, that made Snowpiercer the "biggest budget Korean-made movie of all time," according to Frater. The fact that it was made in English made some feel it might fail in its home country, despite the pedigree of its director, who made the successful Mother and The Host.
With the film's strong reception in Korea, importing it as-is would seem like a no-brainer. But as rumors would have it, the film is facing a Harvey Weinstein-shaped roadblock. Last week, Australia's Inside Film reported that Weinstein, whose company has distribution rights in the U.S. and elsewhere, wants to chop 20 minutes off of the 126 minute film. (Considering a number of this summer's blockbusters ran around two and a half hours, 126 minutes doesn't seem very long to us.) Inside Film sourced British film festival programmer Tony Rayns, who said the cuts would make the film a more traditional action movie that would appeal to the "presumed level of American mid-west hicks." Frater, however, implies that Weinstein actually may have Oscar gold in mind when considering a U.S. release.
For now we're left just wondering whether this film is the sci-fi social allegory that Elysium wasn't. And if we'll ever see it.