Denzel Washington And Spike Lee Are Remaking One Of The Greatest Thrillers Ever Made

"Mo Better Blues." "Malcolm X." "He Got Game." "Inside Man." It is always an event when Spike Lee and Denzel Washington team up for a movie, and they always, always deliver. "Mo Better Blues" suffered from being Lee's follow-up to his masterpiece "Do the Right Thing," but its critical reputation has improved significantly over time. "Malcolm X" is probably the second most important (and brilliant) film about race next to "Do the Right Thing." "He Got Game" is an electric-yet-harrowing father-son drama set against the wanton corruption of college basketball. And "Inside Man" is just a plain old pip of a heist movie, one that makes you wish Lee would place his stylistic spin on more straight-up genre stories.

According to Variety, Lee is set to tackle one of the most masterfully crafted cop tales ever made, and you best believe he's re-teaming with Washington to bring it off.

The project is "High and Low," a remake of Akira Kurosawa's riveting kidnapping thriller that many consider a top-shelf effort for the Japanese maestro. If you're saying to yourself, "The last time Lee remade a classic of Asian cinema, we got 'Old Boy," I'd first implore you to give Lee's clever reworking of Park Chan-wook's revenge yarn another look. Secondly, it's probably more accurate to say Lee isn't remaking anything, but rather taking a crack at a piece of material that's ripe for a revisit.

How so? Read on, reader!

Can Spike top Kurosawa?

Kurosawa was on a commercial filmmaking spree when he adapted Ed McBain's "King's Ransom" in 1963. Two years earlier, he'd turned Dashiell Hammet's rogue detective thriller "Red Harvest" into a samurai movie with "Yojimbo," but this time out he'd taken a novel by a Western author and kept the contemporary setting. "King's Ransom" didn't need any gussying up. It's just a story well told, and Kurosawa tells it magnificently.

It's a kidnapping tale in which a shoe manufacturing executive (the legendary Toshiro Mifune), facing internal maneuvering within his company, struggles with the moral calculus of paying the ransom to return a child who is not his own. It eventually becomes a police procedural, but not in the way you expect, and not with a conclusion you could ever predict.

I love the idea of Lee turning to his Mifune in Washington to see how this predicament would play in, I'm guessing, modern corporate America. It'd be amusing if Lee, who's no stranger to selling kicks, keeps the shoe angle, but mostly I just want for him to pin us to our seats like he did with the twisty "Inside Man." It's a blast to watch auteurs make genre movies on their own aesthetic terms (see Martin Scorsese's "Cape Fear"), so here's hoping he's got a corker of a script cooked up with co-writer Alan Fox (this will evidently be his first major feature credit).

The film is a joint production between A24 and AppleTV+, and if you're a Lee fan, you can breathe easy: "High and Low" will get a theatrical release. "High and Low" begins shooting in March, so perhaps Lee will have it ready for a 2024 holiday release.