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Why John Woo’s Kato Movie Never Happened (& Why It Should Have)

A Kato movie directed by John Woo and starring Phillip Rhee almost happened in the ’90s – here’s why the action film was ultimately unrealized.

John Woo came close to directing a cato movie in the ’90s that would’ve starred Phillip Rhee, but it sadly never happened, even though it should have. John Woo is a highly respected action filmmaker all around the world, rising to fame in Hong Kong with hits like Bullet in the Head and hard-boiled. Rhee is also known as the face of the Best of the Best series of martial arts films, so bringing the two together for a cato movie would seem like a match made in heaven.

Speaking to Scott Adkins on The Art of ActionRhee said that in the ’90s, he’d written a script for a cato movie, though it”had nothing to do with The Green HornetRhee explained following 1993’s Best of the Best2, some producers took interest in his script, including Oliver Stone. This led to Rhee eventually signing a three-picture deal with Warner Bros. to include the cato project.


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However, when John Woo was brought aboard as director by Rhee’s writing partner, Rhee said that Warner Bros., seemingly perplexed by John Woo’s movie work at the time, balked at him as the choice of director. As Rhee said, he felt that the studio’s outlook on Woo was “disrespectful“and”They didn’t offer him a lot of money.“This ultimately led to Rhee’s cato project not moving forward, while Rhee further explained that Universal then approached Woo with an offer to direct the Jean-Claude Van Damme action movie Hard Targetwhich Woo accepted (Adkins himself would later lead the 2016 sequel Hard Target 2directed by Roel Reine.)

Phillip Rhee in Best of the Best Without Warning pic

It’s not fully clear from Rhee’s comment on cato‘s lack of connection to The Green Hornet whether his script simply didn’t involve the Green Hornet and focused on the Kato character made famous by Bruce Lee, or if it was a completely new story and character. In any case, the missed opportunity for Rhee and Woo to work together is quite unfortunate. With Rhee’s skills as a martial artist and action movie lead, a cato movie helmed by John Woo could really have been something special.

the Best of the Best Movies are beloved by martial arts audiences for their reverential showcasing of Korean martial arts like Tae Kwon Do and Hapkido. The first two Best of the Best films showed Rhee as a nimble and swift action hero. Best of the Best 2 put Rhee’s character Tommy Lee against the towering villain Brakus (Ralf Moeller) and delivered incredible fight scenes in a modern gladiatorial setting with Rhee, Moeller, and other fighters.

Rhee would subsequently make two more movies in the Best of the Best martial Arts Series, Best of the Best 3: No Turning Back and Best of the Best: Without Warning. After a long retirement from movie making, Rhee returned in front of and behind the camera in the 2015 movie Underdog Kids. At the same time, Woo would direct numerous action movie hits in Hollywood after Hard Targetincluding Broken Arrow, Face/Offand Mission: Impossible 2. Though both Rhee and Woo each have made amazing action movies individually, their never-realized collaboration on Rhee’s cato screenplay lamentably never got off the ground despite its great potential.

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