Reviews by Country
By now it should come as no surprise that South Korea makes some damn fine films. In fact, if there’s anyone out there consistently living up to the U.S. action blockbuster in terms of content if not money, it’s definitely South Korea. The 2013 offering, The Suspect, directed with a controlled hand by Won Shin-yeon (Seven Days), not only is a thoroughly exciting action movie but it’s also a better-than-decent espionage thriller, a little bit Robert Ludlum, … (read more)
The last couple of animated films I’ve seen from Korea have been Yeon Sang-ho’s powerful, perhaps even brutal films The King of Pigs and The Fake, both of which use the medium in a very distinctive style to present and criticise aspects of Korean society. This film, The Satellite Girl and Milk Cow is no less confident a feature debut for director Jang Hyung-yun, but it is much lighter fare, focusing as it does on romance, heartache, geostationary orbits … (read more)
Without a doubt, South Korea’s crime thrillers rank amongst the best in world cinema. And New World is the latest proof supporting that claim. This box office hit from 2013 boasts a rock solid cast that includes some of the hottest male stars from South Korea today: Lee Jung Jae (The Thieves), Choi Min Sik (Oldboy) and Hwang Jung Min (The Unjust).
New World tells the story of the struggles amongst and between the … (read more)
Cold Eyes is the Korean remake of the popular Hong Kong cops-and-robbers thriller Eye in the Sky from 2007. Although it is harsher and quicker paced, comparisons between the two versions are inevitable, as the remake offers many resemblances to the original version, with quite a few scenes reshot only slightly differently (and not to mention a Simon Yam cameo appearance).
The story follows an elite police taskforce in Seoul which uses surveillance and undercover tactics as its modus operandi … (read more)
This surprisingly entertaining offer from writer-director Hong Sang-soo (Nobody’s Daughter Hae-Won, Virgin Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors) is a little like watching a Woody Allen movie, without as much whining. Western mainstream audiences might find themselves a little torn between the gentle humour and the lack of normal narrative cues towards the end, but words like charming and quirky are definitely not just intellectual terms being bandied about at the critic’s level.
Making the leap beyond regional borders for Asian filmmakers is not as easy as it sounds. The road to global domination, particularly with an assist from the Hollywood marketing machine is littered with the broken, bitter careers of many an auteur. For every Ang Lee there are countless Ringo Lams and John Woos. Added to that pile in the last little while are Kim Jee-woon (A Bittersweet Life, I Saw the Devil), whose underrated The Last Stand… (read more)
Last year’s Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) brought us three very different films that shone a light on the pressure (shading towards the horror, in some cases) of high school in South Korea: the harrowing true story Silenced, the wistful, nuanced drama Bleak Night and the snarling animated film The King of Pigs.
This year they have programmed Pluto, another feature film that takes the pressure-cooker environment of the final years of high school as … (read more)