(South Korea - 2013; US release 2014)
Directed by Bong Joon Ho. Written by Bong Joon Ho and Kelly Masterson. Cast: Chris Evans, Song Kang Ho, Tilda Swinton, Ed Harris, John Hurt, Jamie Bell, Octavia Spencer, Ewen Bremner, Ko Asung, Alison Pill, Luke Pasqualino, Vlad Ivanov, Adnon Haskovic, Emma Levie, Clark Middleton, Tomas Lemarquis, Paul Lazar, Steve Park, Marcanthonee Jon Reis, Karel Vasely. (R, 126 mins)
The instant cult classic of the summer, the $40 million SNOWPIERCER was released in its native South Korea and the rest of Asia a year ago, where it became a blockbuster hit. It opened in Europe not long after, but its US release hit a roadblock. The Weinstein Company acquired the US distribution rights, but expressed concern over its commercial viability if it was to get a wide release. Harvey Weinstein wanted changes made, demanding the 126-minute running time be cut down to 100 minutes with voiceover exposition added at the beginning and end--in short, the same demands he made on Wong Kar Wai's THE GRANDMASTER. SNOWPIERCER director Bong Joon Ho (MEMORIES OF MURDER, THE HOST), making his (for the most part) English-language debut, refused to comply. Weinstein made the changes anyway and focus-grouped both cuts of the film to test audiences. When Bong's version got a better response, Weinstein agreed to release the director's cut, but demoted the film to Radius/TWC, the company's B-movie/genre outfit, presumably for VOD and a brief theatrical run. Word of the film's purported burial spread online and that, coupled with overwhelmingly positive critical reviews, the fact that it was a huge hit overseas, and a knockout US trailer, led to a groundswell of interest from North American audiences who wanted to see the film. It opened on eight screens two weeks ago, expanding to 250 last week, and now it's on VOD in what the Weinstein Company is spinning as a "bold new distribution platform," or some such industry jargon. Maybe it was planned all along, the same way Paramount released PARANORMAL ACTIVITY only because we "demanded" it, or maybe Weinstein's just being a bullying dick, but regardless, SNOWPIERCER is finally being made accessible stateside.