Posts Tagged ‘Korean Movie Blog’



KOREA 2010  Directed by: Kim Sang-Man Written by: Kim Sang-Man, Kim Hwi Produced by: Je Jeong-Hun, Kim Hong-Baek  Cinematography by: Kim Tae-Gyeong  Editing by: Sin Min-Gyeong  Music by: Kim Jun-Seong  Cast: Park Soo-Ae, Yoo Ji-Tae, Ma Dong-Seok, Choi Song-Hyeon, Shin Da-Eun, Jeong Man-Sik, Kim Min-Kyu, Jo Seok-Hyeon, Nam Ji-Hyun, Kwak Byung-Kyu

There are basically two kinds of thrillers: the type that gradually reveals the (secret) connection between the victim and the killer, including a climatic surprise ending, and the type that solely concentrates on a cat-and-mouse game with as many twists and turns as possible, trying to outsmart the audience with genuine ideas lending weight to its dramatization of terror. Either way, both concepts can be highly intriguing and artistic if everything comes together perfectly.

MIDNIGHT FM falls into the second category: the story about a popular TV anchorwoman and late night radio show host who is stalked by a madman starts conventional and sticks to its formulaic routine of attack and counter-attack until the end, interspersed by occasional guessing games and gimmicks, but otherwise predictable moves. Hostages, children, a suspicious fan, police investigations, time pressure and some incidences prior to the actual events are supposed to add extra thrills, but are all pretty much common elements of any genre film today. Meaning, unfortunately MIDNIGHT FM is far from perfect.

While MIDNIGHT FM proves to be a solid and relatively tight film throughout it lacks the extraordinary: it’s a movie you can watch, or cannot watch, either way makes no difference. You’re not going to miss anything that you cannot see on TV every second day of the week or the next best genre film brings to the table as well.

Without real highlight, without anything special to report, I am not sure what to write about: MIDNIGHT FM isn’t great, and it certainly isn’t bad, it’s an ok crime saga, a couple-compatible thriller made for a multiplex-audience seeking mild thrills but would otherwise be easily offended by I SAW THE DEVIL and the likes. MIDNIGHT FM is anything but award-winning material, so don’t let respective awards tell you otherwise (that’s not saying Soo-Ae’s performance isn’t worthy of a Best Actress award). Expect nothing much, and you’ll get exactly that.




IRIS: THE MOVIE a.k.a. IRIS – THE LAST [AHIRISEU | 아이리스 : 더 무비 | 아이리스 – 극장판]


KOREA 2010  Directed by: Yang Yun-Ho, Kim Kyu-Tae Produced by: Taewon Chung Cast: Lee Byung-Hun, Kim Tae-Hee, Jeong Jun-Ho, Kim Seung-Woo, Kim So-Yeon, T.O.P.

PREFACE: saying IRIS: THE MOVIE was a good or a bad movie in principle is impossible. The feature film following the successful KBS TV Series is essentially a re-edit of the 20 preceding episodes, plus additional unseen footage that is supposed to enhance the storyline, deepen certain aspects of the drama and answer some of the open questions. Meaning, not much of IRIS: THE MOVIE is genuine, entirely new or surprising to those who have watched the series before. Quite the opposite.

THE TV SERIES: IRIS the television drama is most certainly one of the best shows coming out of Korea so far, and it’s a great show by any standard. However, we shouldn’t be kidding ourselves and believe that IRIS is reinventing the wheel: IRIS is a carbon copy of 24, with Lee Byung-Hun reprising the role of Kiefer Sutherland. Along the way the plot, storyline, characters and dramaturgy are purely 24, the NSS agency, the terrorist attacks, the assassinations, the betrayals, the government involvement, the secret organization, all the way down to many of the details that are 24 by the book (like, oops, wrong warehouse, or “give me that friggin’ code NOW”).

Furthermore, the television drama may be a very good adaptation of 24, but it simply lacks its cinematic aesthetics. The HD video look is irritating and drags down the overall quality, making it anything but fit for the silver screen. Consequently, it has been mostly aired on IPTV / cable TV channels so far, but Japanese audiences will have to brace themselves for that odd video look when the film hits cinemas in January. IRIS had a very big budget by Korean standards, but they forgot to invest it into 35mm film. Too bad: if there’s one distinct quality trademark it’s celluloid.

THE MOVIE: now the big question is who exactly is the target audience for this mashup of a movie? Any which way I look at it IRIS: THE MOVIE fails. That is because re-editing 20 episodes into a single film results in an incomprehensible mess. IRIS: THE MOVIE is free of any character development (let alone introduction), it randomly jumps in and out of scenes, nothing is sufficiently explained or integrated into the larger context. The whole movie feels like a very, very long trailer. Right. A trailer. That’s what it is. A two-hour long trailer, a never-ending best-of compilation. If you haven’t seen the series you’ll be repeating one sentence from beginning to end: what the heck is going on?

Die-hard fans of the series will of course disagree and say that IRIS: THE MOVIE is grrrrrreat, but that’s because they have seen the twenty episodes before, and what the movie does is that it triggers sweet memories. So that’s self-deception. Without those memories, it simply doesn’t work: IRIS: THE MOVIE is an executive summary not worth watching. It’s rushed, incomplete and dissatisfying, most of all it doesn’t substitute watching the series.

CONCLUSION: if you are interested in the series, avoid IRIS: THE MOVIE at all costs. It doesn’t do any good, in fact, it will seriously spoil the TV drama experience. And if you are not planning to watch the series, still there aren’t any good reasons to waste your time with IRIS: THE MOVIE as it simply isn’t a movie in the first place.





KOREA 2010  Directed by: Lee Jeong-Beom  Written by: Lee Jeong-Beom  Produced by: Lee Tae-Heon  Cinematography by: Lee Tae-Yoon  Editing by: Kim Sang-Beom  Music by: Shim Hyun-Jeong  Cast: Won Bin, Kim Sae-Ron, Kim Tae-Hoon, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Seong-Ok, Thanayong Wongtrakul, Kim Hyo-Seo, Lee Jong-Pil

If THE MAN FROM NOWHERE reminds you of Luc Besson’s LEON, then you should think of it as a good thing rather than expecting a too me too movie. Essentially, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE is about a platonic friendship (love?) between a former agent (who a while ago lost his wife and his child) and a girl from the neighborhood whose mother is a drug addict and involved with a notorious crime syndicate. When So-Mi’s mother is killed over stolen drugs, So-Mi herself is sold to the drug kingpins by her aunt and ends up as an “ant”, a child drug courier. Cha Tae-Sik, the agent turned pawn shop owner, is getting caught in the middle: not only had he, unknowingly, stored the stolen drugs in his shop in a bag the mother deposited earlier, but So-Mi is also his only connection to the rest of the world, the only one he can relate to. When he learns about So-Mi being held hostage by the gang, he decides to get her back – by all means.

And he’s got an awful lot of means at his disposal: Tae-Sik is an unstoppable killing machine, a nowhere man who “only lives today”, who’s got nothing left to lose (or so he thinks), but thanks to the excellent script and Won Bin’s superior performance Tae-Sik’s character is also very real, emotionally vulnerable and sensitive (not with his enemies, though). It almost seems as if the more violent the encounters get, the more he comes to realize that there is something worth fighting for – he just doesn’t know what to make out of it. Fighting for isn’t living for (or is it), but when the last sword is drawn, the last bullet fired, all that can be shed is a tear. To be able to do that however you not only have to see through the mission, you also have to make it out alive.

THE MAN FROM NOWHERE proves that once again it all comes down to a good story and a good script: the multiple layers and plot threads provide an exceptionally strong fundament that helps rationalizing everyone’s actions and gives the audience good reasons to believe that everything’s just the way it was meant to be. THE MAN FROM NOWHERE feels so natural, so right, in short: the film makes perfect sense.

Keeping in mind that it features not just one, but basically three to four main interlinked plot threads and a parallel police investigation on top of the central rescue / revenge motif, I must say that I haven’t seen a finer script in 2010. Not that this was a particularly disappointing year for Hollywood or Europe, but I can’t remember anything matching this story and the way it’s been told: a story about the existence, about its fragility as much as its worth, presented as a synthesis of resolutely gritty thriller, discourse on friendship and spiritual tale of sacrifice.


Move over, I SAW THE DEVIL, here comes THE MAN FROM NOWHERE: the movie deserves every single award it received at the Korean Film Awards in November (and it should have received more at the Blue Dragon Film Awards). I SAW THE DEVIL was a serious contender in my opinion, but the fact that THE MAN FROM NOWHERE raked in so many awards is not proof of other films’ weaknesses, but indeed proof of its own strengths. There is little, if nothing that could be any better: THE MAN FROM NOWHERE features kind of the ideal cast, direction, writing, dialogue, editing and action; it’s one of the most violent, but also most poetic films coming out of Korea recently; it is a remarkably aesthetic film, features the most compelling ending of any movie lately and is probably the most rewarding film experience in a long while.


Compared to I SAW THE DEVIL, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE also feels more up-to-date, unleashing a world of modern-day horrors upon the audience vs. the old-school serial killer / revenge story featured in I SAW THE DEVIL that was largely driven by how things happen instead of why they happen. That also had to do with the fact that in I SAW THE DEVIL revenge is carried out for things that happened in the past and cannot be reversed (the kind of revenge that is pointless and from a theological point of view wrong), while in THE MAN FROM NOWHERE “revenge” is carried out for something that could happen in the future (except for the showdown) and is much more an act of self-defense, a necessity. There is no other choice, except So-Mi’s sure death. The context and motivation may not be identical, but it cannot be denied that Tae-Sik’s preemptive war has unmistakable resonance, while So-Hyun’s revenge is largely a playful take on genre conventions.

I could go on dissecting and analyzing every single detail of A MAN FROM NOWHERE, but it would all just lead to the same conclusion: A MAN FROM NOWHERE is a straight 10/10, 100% great movie making, 0% BS. It’s beautiful, and it’s powerful. If there’s one Korean film to watch this year, it’s this one.