Posts Tagged ‘korean movie’



KOREA 2010  Directed by: Kim Cheol-Han  Written by: Kim Cheol-Han Cast: Kam Woo-Seong, Jang Shin-Yeong, Lee Seung-Min, Choi Won-Young, Yun Ji-Min, Tak Teu-In, Ha Seong-Cheol, Kim Min-Jwa, Cheon Seong-Hun, Jang Suk-Hyun, Kim Min-Ki, Park Ah-In

THE OUTLAW is a movie that urges me to write my resume up-front – because THE OUTLAW is plain disgusting. Its on-screen violence is, its exploitation of the subject matter is and its rotten attitude is.

For the first half THE OUTLAW is painting a more than unrealistic picture of a nihilistic world of rape, torture, mutilation and 24/7 violent crime that happens just for the fun of deranged criminals. All that comes in a highly concentrated dosage, the dark part of our existence in a nutshell, but the way it is presented here surpasses every Telenovela or Lakorn by far. What’s supposed to be dramaturgy ends up being relentless razzmatazz. Everyone except the police and their spouse seem to be knife- and gun-wielding, cold-blooded killers. Everyone. Even friends, siblings, you name it.

It’s even worse when it comes to the movie’s intentions: it takes us down that ugly road only to justify the hero’s vengeful acts later. Even more, it manipulates the audience into enjoying the violence detective Oh inflicts on the delinquents. There is only black and white in THE OUTLAW, there are no doubts, second thoughts, there is no reason to not find revenge an appropriate method to create and measure justice.

Because injustice happens on so many levels, in so many forms, so overwhelmingly everywhere, and THE OUTLAW makes it so painful to watch that finally we crave for salvation. The icing on the cake is that THE OUTLAW is even stirring anti-American sentiment for its cause, as some of the criminals are of Korean-American descent and as US citizens are part of and protected by the US armed forces.

We are supposed to buy into an eye-for-an-eye religion – stopping short of killing in the name of god (what a coincidence that even detective Oh’s brother, a priest, is falling from grace and kills a woman related to him). On the surface THE OUTLAW makes us believe that Oh has lost his faith, but in a weird and hard to rationalize way it also suggests that Oh is the right hand of god, restoring justice on earth on god’s behalf. Accompanied by a funky soundtrack, dressed in a cool outfit, he does the work of an avenging angel. There is even time for funny jokes.

Some of the “creative” ways Oh stages his revenge later are so conventional that it turns this oh-so-hardboiled revenge flick into little less than a DIE HARD or SPEED rip-off, losing its edge quickly and turning into a mainstream action movie. The second half of the film then is also lousily directed, acted and choreographed. In fact, it is boring and as realistic as TOM & JERRY – the movie finishes in caper-style.

Altogether THE OUTLAW adds up to huge pile of depression and agony and decay, but nothing else. Sure, Oh becomes what the criminals are he’s hunting. And Oh repeatedly says that he will go to hell (just as his brother will for what he did). But at the end he’s getting away with it, celebrating victory, roaming in a chic summer suit, once more suggesting that he is actually on a mission from god. So what’s the point? As there are no consequences, there’s no learning. It all just made him (and supposedly us) feel real good.

The movie ends with the words “this movie does not represent real people or situations”. No shit.




KOREA 2010  Directed & Written by: Cho Chang-Ho Cast: Kim Nam-Gil, Woo Seul Hye Hwang, Jeong Yun-Min, Nam Sung-Jin

A love triangle goes horribly wrong. He sleeps with him, while also being romantically involved with her. When she finds out about it she is shocked (naturally) and kills her rival more or less accidentally with a rifle. Kind of too late: as a result of the affair he spreads the disease and infects her. In return he takes the blame for the killing and goes to jail. That’s where he (a magician of some sort) meets another supposedly innocent murderer: Su-In, a chef, who is convicted for having killed his wife but says he hasn’t done it.

Sang-Byun, the magician, proposes a deal: he will teach Su-In how to vanish from the face of the earth (or at least from prison) if he in return goes and visits his former lover Mi-Ya and lets him know how she is. Su-In, after some odd twists including him getting infected with AIDS on purpose to get released from jail, finally breaks out of prison and finds Sang-Byun’s ex. Without telling her who he is and that he in fact knows Sang-Byun he starts living at her place and work for her as chef. The fragile relationship is beginning to show cracks however as soon as the police who are on his trail are getting a bit too close, a weird neighbor starts to get suspicious of them and his true identity is about to be revealed after all.

LOVERS VANISHED is not a happy-go-lucky romantic movie, but follows the tradition of some of the darker works from Korea about lives that are going only one direction: downhill. In that respect I must say the movie looks and feels tres Korean. I cannot rationalize that or claim that there is such a thing as a “national identity” to movies per se (those who have studied film and arts will know that), but it is undeniable that LOVERS VANISHED is as Korean as it gets.

To a certain degree this is a good thing: LOVERS VANISHED isn’t compromising and confronts us with a very depressing story that at no time gears towards a happy end. The movie is not purely nihilistic though and offers glimpses of hope here and there, but whatever has been set in motion will also produce certain consequences in the long run.

LOVERS VANISHED has some truly magical moments, mean plot twists and gorgeous visuals – that doesn’t make it the new THE PRESTIGE or LOVE LETTER though. Something about the motivations and actions of the characters feels permanently wrong.

It is not that stringent logic or predictable behavior is something I’d be looking for, but some things are just really hard to swallow. The whole AIDS scare is brutal, but it is difficult to believe that the female victim would still be emotionally involved with the magician (or later even with Su-In). The random rape scene then is unnecessary for the story development, that’s why we can’t be too delighted with the fact that the rapist probably ends up having AIDS too.

Some things are too constructed (like the mentioned neighbor), the magician’s trickery (which never actually contributes to the story) and the symbolic cooking (if we would wanted to see a movie about the sexual aspect of food we’d be watching TAMPOPO).

LOVERS VANISHED is fascinating, but not satisfying. It’s a big tragedy but as all big tragedies it’s supposed to actually tell us about the mysteries of our existence and show us a way out – provide proof that there’s a reason to live despite this overwhelming pessimism.

LOVERS VANISHED gives us that reason in a way (love is the answer, as so often), but it just feels wrong. Wrong place, wrong time, wrong everything. This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.
This is not a love song.




KOREA 2010  Directed & Written by: Kim Hyeong-Jun  Produced by: Kang Woo-Seok  Editing: Kim Sun-Min Cast: Seol Kyeong-Gu, Ryoo Seung-Beom,
Han Hye-Jin, Seong Ji-Roo,
Nam Kyeong-Eup, Lee Jeong-Woo,
Joo Sang-Wook, Ahn Eun-Jung, Kim Hyeok

Forensic pathologist Kang (Seol Kyeong-Gu) is assigned to examine the dismembered corpse of a female murder victim: head, arms and legs are all severed from the torso and one arm is missing. Kang quickly finds out that the place the body was found is not the murder scene and furthermore that this is not an isolated case of brutal violence but a message to the investigators. Soon all leads point to a fanatic environmentalist, Lee Sung-ho (Ryoo Seung-beom), as the primary suspect, but with his arrest the case is far from over. Kang’s daughter is kidnapped and a manipulative game begins that will drive Kang to the edge – and over.

It is safe to say that the Korean movie industry had lost it a while ago, had forgotten its strengths and instead indulged in producing a stupendous amount of lackluster movies throughout the last decade. There are signs that it gets back to form however, and one of these signs is NO MERCY.

The movie is deadly serious and displays a grim realism that is not for the faint-hearted. The opening scene alone will make some people think should I stay or should I go; starting like this shows that NO MERCY has chutzpah, and not too little. As it’s setting the benchmark early don’t be surprised that the movie continues to show you unsettling images and the world the way it is: in NO MERCY the harsh reality doesn’t undergo the Hollywood treatment, so if you prefer to see things through rose-colored glasses look elsewhere.

That alone is a quality most movies are missing, but NO MERCY feels even more intense and sinister due to the absence of humor (the “duel” between the female rookie and a senior detective is highly entertaining but never impacts the tonality) and the presence of the cast. Seol Kyung-Gu, Ryoo Seung-Beom and Han Hye-Jin are top-notch in their respective roles and drive the movie relentlessly forward.

The true backbone of NO MERCY however is the strong story: the quality of the script is excellent and it’s the true hero of the movie. Tight, stringent, logical yet very creative and full of plot twists the script is nothing short of awesome. Very few movies are blessed with such good writing, even in its most far-fetched moments NO MERCY looks good and plausible.

The surprises it delivers and the nihilistic conclusion are reminiscent of some of the best thrillers, namely Korea’s very own OLD BOY and SE7EN, for instance. If there’s anything to complain about NO MERCY then that it lacks originality in so far as we have seen its subject, subtext and motifs all before. But then, NO MERCY isn’t using them exactly the same way and is more than a simple amalgamation of familiar bits and pieces.

There’s one specific idea here that I’d like to point out as rather genuine and that without a doubt gives NO MERCY it’s very own touch of evil: Kang is forced to act and work against his own convictions and ethics from the beginning. What Lee asks from him is diametrically opposed to everything Kang is, knows, thinks or believes in. That makes Kang an enormously tragic figure and the finale offers no relief. It’s a one-way street for Kang, only that it’s all been mapped out by his adversary and Kang doesn’t realize it until the bitter end.

Not many movies dare to fundamentally depress their audience: NO MERCY is not a happy movie and hence it doesn’t gear towards a commercial happy end. Instead the reward for the open-minded audience is a sharp story with a determined, rational and yet surprising (more or less) ending that doesn’t compromise. So if you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

Kim Hyeong-Jun was so kind though as to present us NO MERCY wrapped in gorgeous visuals and a formidable soundtrack – it’s almost like a concession to ease the viewer’s pain. Even if it doesn’t really make NO MERCY more comfortable to watch – other than Kang at least the audience receives a bit of mercy after all.