For a while there, John Woo was the hottest action director in the world. He made his name with Hong Kong films like The Killer and Hard Boiled, and then came stateside and made at least one great film: Face/Off. Unfortunately he followed it with Mission: Impossible II, the Tom Cruise-led fiasco that was a huge hit but turned his signature style into near-parody. In fact, doves flying away from an explosion is still a joke (see: 21 Jump Street). But now John Woo is back with Day of the Beast.

Woo directed in America after MI2, but films like Windtalkers and Paycheck were considered lesser and so he returned to Hong Kong to make the epic Red Cliff. It was a huge hit overseas, but was modestly released stateside – partly because of its unwieldy two part structure that ran nearly five hours. There was a cut-down version released in America, but it didn’t draw much attention. The style of Hong Kong action was so co-opted stateside (wire-fu in Charlie’s Angels) that mainstream American audiences no longer seemed to care.

Woo’s latest film is being filmed in the English language, but financed by the Japanese company Nikkatsu. It’s a remake of the Seijun Suzuki film Youth of the Beast, and for those who’d like to sample the original before Woo’s version, it’s in the Criterion Collection. Here’s the press release for the film:

May 16, 2012 –– John Woo and Terence Chang’s Lion Rock Productions and Nikkatsu Corporation will co-produce DAY OF THE BEAST, a remake of Seijun Suzuki’s 1963 classic Youth of the Beast centering on the dealings of Yakuza, the Japanese mafia. Woo (Mission: Impossible II, Face/Off) will direct and produce the script by Rob Frisbee along with Terence Chang, and Nikkatsu’s Naoki Sato. Lori Tilkin, Aki Sugihara and Yoko Asakura are executive producing. The English language production was announced as Nikkatsu, Japan’s oldest major movie studio, celebrates its 100th Anniversary this year.

John Woo said, “This remake is my salute to the great films and filmmakers produced by Nikkatsu’s 100 years in cinema history. It is exciting for me as well as an honor.”

Nikkatsu president Naoki Sato said, “Among Nikkatsu’s 6,000+ film library, this is one of our most revered titles. We have a tremendous amount of respect for Mr. Woo and are excited he is directing this film for the international market. We think this is a great way to start off the next 100 years of filmmaking history!”

Lion Rock’s Terence Chang said, “Seijun Suzuki’s Youth of the Beast is one of my favorite films, and I have been obsessed with remaking it for over 10 years! I have to thank Nikkatsu for this partnership and for making this dream come true!”

DAY OF THE BEAST follows a western outsider with a grim past as he becomes embroiled in a global turf war between a vicious new breed of Yakuza and old school Cold War Russian mobsters. It’s an action-packed saga of loyalty, revenge and redemption which erupts in the heart of Tokyo.

Obviously, no cast has been announced yet, but we’re happy to see Woo return, and with Japanese financing it’s not going to be forced to be PG-13 to make it more Western friendly. We can’t wait.

What’s your favorite John Woo film?