Blog Archives

Punished (2011)

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Have you noticed how the last few years have seen South Korean cinema fall under the influence of the great Hong Kong crime thrillers of the 1980s and early-’90s? Whether it’s in a stylistic and/or thematic shout-out or a straight-up remake of a classic — like Son Hae-sung’s A Better Tomorrow or the upcoming 3D remake of The Killer (nooooooo!) starring Jung Woo-sung — the Korean industry owes a lot to the trail blazed by John Woo, Ringo Lam and … (read more)

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I Saw the Devil (2010)

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Director Kim Jee-woon and Lee Byung-hun are turning into Korea’s own Scorsese and De Niro. After flopping around the industry for a while and getting notice on and off for his interesting, if uneven, films (The Quiet Family, The Foul King), international audiences sat up and took note of Kim’s segment in the horror anthology Three. A year later A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) really made a splash. Imperfect though it was, Sisters had a … (read more)

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The Man From Nowhere (2010)

Oh, you’ve seen this movie before, my friend. It’s Taken. It’s Man on Fire. It’s every movie ever made wherein a super-tough but fundamentally sensitive man with a mysterious, deadly and usually governmental past has to go on a bloody rampage to rescue a child — his own or one somehow close to him. The Man from Nowhere is that hoariest of tales, the one about the redemptive power of genuine affection as only children are able to … (read more)

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The Unjust (2010)

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Director Ryoo Seung-wan has quickly made a name for himself as an action man; a director of a singular, urban, macho brand of thriller. Beginning with Die Bad (basically all about male aggression) and through Crying Fist (basically about male self-determination via the world’s most brutal sport) and The City of Violence (basically about male grief and the loss of fraternal trust), Ryoo could easily be referred to as the polar opposite of Pedro Almodovar: he’s a man’s director! I … (read more)

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Slice (Cheun) (2009)

Slice is one of those films that very nearly defies review. A serial killer thriller cut from the same cloth as Se7en (can we move past this please?), with a dash of Ms 45 and Baise-moi thrown in for good measure, the central murderer weaves a tangled web of personal vendettas, righteous indignation and red herrings while offing some really ‘deserving’ types. If you’ve seen the aforementioned movies, you’ll clue in pretty quickly that there’s a sex crime angle to … (read more)

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Fire of Conscience (Fou Lung) (2010)

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To try and sort out the convoluted plot of Dante Lam’s Fire of Conscience would take more space than this website has bandwidth. Just thinking about the gratuitous twists and turns in the narrative is enough to prompt a migraine. To that end, Lam was probably going for more of the cops and robbers action vibe Hong Kong did so well in the ‘80s and ’90s — and that Lam evoked so effectively in last year’s Sniper and 2008’s surprising … (read more)

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Ex (2010)

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No matter what anyone says or does and no matter how hard Emperor (the film’s production company) tries, the biggest draw to Heiward Mak’s middling twentysomething romantic drama is lead Gillian Chung. Ex is the kind of star vehicle released at Just The Right Time that Emperor excels in forcing into the cultural discourse; let’s not forget this is the organisation that decided to makes stars of Twins — and unfortunately did so. This time around, the goal is rehabilitating … (read more)

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Amphetamine (On Fei Tar Ming) (2010)

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Okay. So all you have to know about being gay in Asia is that 1) your life will end miserably and you will die too young and 2) you will become smitten with a straight guy, but that’s not really an obstacle to your imminent demise. Horror, sci-fi, rom-com and kitchen sink dramas have tropes and conventions that define them as such, and in that light, Asia’s queer cinema scene is making a case for itself as a genre. That … (read more)

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