Posts Tagged ‘Korean Movies 2010’



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.




MOSS [IGGI | 이끼]


KOREA 2010  Directed by: Kang Woo-Suk  Written by: Jo Woo Chung   Internet Comic by: Yoon Tae-Ho  Produced by: Jung Sun-Young  Cinematography by: Kim Sung-Bok, Kim Yong Hong  Editing by: Go Im-Pyo  Music by: Jo Young-Wook  Cast: Park Hae-Il, Jeong Jae-Yeong, Yu Jun-Sang, Yoo-Sun, Yu Hae-Jin, Kim Sang-Ho, Kim Jun-Bae, Heo Jun-Ho, Kang Shin-Il, Lim Seung-Dae, Jeong Gyu-Su, Lee Cheol-Min, Keum Dong-Hyun, Jeong Gi-Seop

When Ryu Hae-Kuk travels upcountry to bury is late father in the village he reclusively lived in for decades, a chain of mysterious events begins. The villagers, especially their head Cheon Yong-Deok, are less than fond of the visitor from Seoul and can’t wait for his departure, but Ryu Hae-Kuk has reasons to stay on and look into the circumstances of his father’s death. Soon he discovers that a conspiracy beyond imagination is going on, and it seems that his father was a vital part of it.

Summarizing all the various plot threads and points of MOSS is a useless enterprise – mostly because nothing, but really nothing in the movie makes really sense. MOSS is best described as being overly ambitious, and falling short of creating the grand piece of art it set out to make. On the contrary, nothing makes for a pair of shoes here.

Starting with the opening that is supposedly providing the background – and later denouement – of the story. This is all highly constructed and intentionally misleading, so that when things come full circle at the end we are confronted with a very dissatisfying conclusion. In between there is too much going on that is going nowhere: every time a new discovery is made, every time a new mystery presents itself it feels like a dead-end, or puzzling at least.

For a mystery thriller, MOSS is neither mysterious nor thrilling enough. All along the way we are waiting for something really exciting to happen, or something really bizarre, or both, but Mr. Kang just can’t do it. MOSS is a film filled with empty promises. Don’t think that MOSS comes even remotely close to a Yukihiko Tsutsumi film, or that it is even remotely close to the sharp analytical storytelling of an Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes novel, or that it has the deeper meaning of STRAW DOGS, a movie that probably was a source of inspiration among many others. The villagers who are in cahoots over something and attempt to threaten the hero’s life are a well-known thriller ingredient, only that in MOSS the secrets they keep are anti-climatic and unsurprising at best.

When the last battle is fought and the last word’s been spoken, MOSS feels like watching LOST up to season 3 or so – we may get some clumsy explanations for what’s going on, but it doesn’t feel right, or believable, and essentially is nothing but a huge let-down. For the first half of the film we are collecting countless evidence, and then we realize that the evidence doesn’t really point to anything. The secret tunnel, the role of Ryu Hae-Kuk’s father, the former detective’s motifs, the sidekicks’ justification of existence, the largely undisclosed, unexplained criminal activities, the past relationship between Ryu Hae-Kuk and prosecutor Park, about everything we encounter remains evidence for nothing in particular.

On the surface MOSS is a solid, even entertaining thriller, after a proper reality check however it must be said that MOSS is also the film of 2010 that is least making sense. Just imagine your average football player talking quantum physics for two hours, and you get the idea.

With MOSS Mr. Kang delivers another half-cooked work that compared to the overrated PUBLIC ENEMY movies is even less stringent and coercive (maybe that’s also thanks to the source material). After more than twenty years of filmmaking TWO COPS (1993) remains Mr. Kang’s best film to date, a creative, smart and witty genre entry that was never surpassed by any of his following movies. So grab that old VHS tape from your collection and watch it once again instead of MOSS, as it will save you some grave disappointment.






KOREA 2010  Directed by: Kim Ji-Woon  Written by: Park Hoon-Jung Produced by: Kim Hyung-Woo, Jo Sung-Won, Kim Jae-Young, Kim Jung-Hwa  Cinematography: Lee Mo-Gae Editing by: Nam N-Yeong Cast: Byung-Hun Lee, Min-Sik Choi, Gook-Hwan Jeon, In-Seo Kim, Cheon Ho Jin, Oh San-Ha, Kim Yoon-Seo

Kyung-Chul is a serial killer who one fine day chooses the wrong victim: the soon-to-be wife of special detective Dae-Hoon. Dae-Hoon, who feels he failed to protect his wife, promises to at least pay back the pain to her killer times ten thousand. He takes a two-week leave from work to track down Kyung-Chul – once he gets hold of him he inflicts all kinds of violence on him, driving him to the edge of sanity.

I SAW THE DEVIL has made waves even before its premiere and has become notorious as the movie being too violent to get a theatrical release in Korea. It had to undergo extensive re-editing to finally be found fit for screening. The result is a (still) very disturbing, dark, brutal and painfully realistic film reminiscent of some of the most rampant works from Korea.

As expected, I SAW THE DEVIL shows all the hallmarks of Kim Ji-Woon’s style of filmmaking, along with a lot of Korean trademark look and feel, making for an outstandingly classy movie that puts itself on top of this year’s output made in Korea with ease. Direction, writing, production, editing, music and acting are all top-notch and could earn the movie awards in each of the categories, and altogether they create a very organic and exciting movie. There are few movies each year that achieve such a high standard of perfection, disregard what corner of the world you are looking.

Going into details would spoil the viewing experience as the film lives off of the character’s moves, the events set in motion by either the killer or his nemesis. It’s a film that you cannot describe adequately as the story development doesn’t follow conventional story telling. So seeing is the ultimate way to understand the film and to assess if it works for you or not.

The crucial point I believe is the question how to put I SAW THE DEVIL into perspective. For viewers who are not familiar with hard-boiled thrillers made in Korea or other Asian countries I SAW THE DEVIL will look extremely raw and “new”, a radical experience that has little in common with the Hollywood approach to filmmaking where the violence is mostly a means of dramatization and seldom has a purpose. Looking at I SAW THE DEVIL from a Korean perspective, I feel it’s safe to say that it ranks among the best genre movies of its kind, but is neither as inventive as OLD BOY, not as depressive as SYMPATHY FOR MR. VENGEANCE, nor as tragic-comical as Mr. Kim’s own A BITTERSWEET LIFE.

Both main characters just do what they do, there is little surprise in how they act or react. Once the path is chosen there is no turning back. I SAW THE DEVIL is mostly innovative through its new take on revenge, the prolonged torture of the bad guy that turns the good guy into a monster himself. But what is missing is a real insight into what the characters feel or think, or maybe it’s just that simple: the killer is a depraved psycho with no motif, reason or directional thinking, and the detective is so consumed by his mission that there is no room for any other thought or character trait than the role of an avenger.

Maybe it’s a little unfair to say that I SAW THE DEVIL is a cold movie, but beyond the beautiful snowy landscape and chilling events any kind of complex emotion has gone missing. Identification with the characters remains difficult throughout the film: as much as we sympathize with Dae-Hoon and as much as we enjoy Kyung-Chul’s suffering there’s always a safety distance that prevents us from involving too much. Maybe that’s a good thing that keeps us sane, but it also prevents a deeper involvement of the audience.

I SAW THE DEVIL is an outstanding genre movie and extremely neat filmmaking, but I do not dare to say it is innovative, adds anything much to the genre or is a brilliant masterpiece in its own right. Essentially, it’s an amalgamation of things we have seen before, a great mashup of motifs and themes and scenes of the serial killer / revenge flick that results in something I would describe as Kim Ji-Woon’s very own interpretation of the serial killer / revenge film, but it is not a terribly genuine kind of work (says the critic who wish he’d be the one helming the criticized work).

The bottom line: I SAW THE DEVIL is highly recommended, it’s quintessential filmmaking nonetheless. It will leave you impressed. This way, or another.