Blog Archives

The Yellow Sea (2010)

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Na Hong-jin’s second film confirms that he is the number one crime-action auteur to emerge from Asia in recent memory. I like his films more than Park Chan-wook’s head-scratchingly abstract work since Oldboy and also Kim Ji-woon’s fun but sadly empty and pointless excursions post-A Tale of Two Sisters. Na’s first film, The Chaser, is a taut, horrific thriller with great momentum and some shocking surprises. It starred two very good but nonprominent Korean actors, Kim and … (read more)

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Ip Man 2 (2010)

This is certainly no tame squeakquel.

More an exuberant throwback to fan-favourite 1980s Hong Kong martial arts movies, with fight scene stacked upon fight scene, shamelessly caricatured gwailo villains, a breezily achieved period setting, and at times (e.g. the fish market) quite thrilling fight choreography. Flawed, without a doubt. Cheesy, yes. The plot is uninspired, the violence unnecessarily excessive at times (Sammo’s face gets a real work out) and there’s emotionally flat filler like the re-introduction of Simon Yam’s character. … (read more)

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A Dirty Carnival (2006)

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One of the best Korean gangster movies of the 2000s. Noted for the gritty, spontaneous look of its fight scenes, to me it’s also the interplay of conventional and reflexive elements that makes A Dirty Carnival stand above the excessively histrionic Friend, cute but daft jopok comedies like Marrying the Mafia and My Wife is a Gangster, the aesthetically appealing but shallow A Bittersweet Life and the largely unadventurous output of Ryu Seung-wan, among others.

Jo In-seoung, unbearably … (read more)

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3 Idiots (2009)

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There are three guys in this film trying to make their own independent, free-thinking mark in life. Apparently that’s what makes them idiots according to their elders. Only an idiot would give up a high paying engineering career to become a photographer. Only an idiot could possibly fail to overcome the fear of failure that stops him from achieving high grades when his impoverished family’s future is at stake. Only an idiot would want to take a conceptual approach to … (read more)

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The Chaser (2008)

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Na Hong-jin’s incredibly assured feature debut is the best Korean crime movie since Memories of Murder. Upon release, The Chaser helped bring Korea’s domestic box office out of a half-year slump and for the first time since the arrival of Choi Dong-hoon (The Big Swindle) and Jang Jun-hwan (Save the Green Planet) announced a new genre auteur worth following.

From the first few opening moments it’s clear we’re in good hands. Aided by some wonderfully … (read more)

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This Charming Girl (2004)

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Quite an assured debut that deservedly attracted plenty of attention for the director and star.

Kim Ji-soo received universal plaudits for her portrayal of a quiet postal worker dealing with the a pair of traumatic events in her past, one revealed early on (the death of her mother) and the other withheld until much later. The revelation of this second trauma is ultimately a letdown – unfortunately predictable given the intensity of the character study and the audacity of the … (read more)

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Still Walking (2008)

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Koreeda must be among the gentlest of modern filmmakers and Still Walking the almost perfect inverse to the so-called extremism driving populist interest in Asian cinema.

Why gentle? Koreeda takes a melodramatic premise here (concerned with the devastation that a tragic death wrecks upon surviving family members and one person connected with the incident), pads his story with bitter males and eccentric females, fiddles with a basic array of conflicts (young vs old, husband vs wife, city vs country, life … (read more)

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Old Fish (2008)

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Not all things discovered in mysterious small packages are good. Several packages containing volatile home-made time bombs, for instance. Objects that can paralyse a city, waste civil resources and, if not dealt with promptly and carefully, lead to the loss of innocent limbs and lives.

Unfortunately, it’s a scenario that, today, we can appreciate all too well.

Utilising such assumed knowledge within its audience, Old Fish actually steps back from any sort of commentary on this particular infliction of terror … (read more)

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