Blog Archives

The Berlin File (2013)

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Who knew?  North Korea, despite being the diplomatic Bogeyman of the western world still maintains an embassy in Berlin.  Admittedly, now that I’ve looked it up on Wikipedia, it does seem less impressive to have a Korean spy thriller set specifically in Berlin (which I was led to believe was somewhat unique).  Nonetheless the city still retains a residual cloak and dagger ambiance from years of the Cold War and films about the subterfuge that once went on in … (read more)

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No Blood No Tears (2002)

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This year’s KOFFIA festival opened with a bang, with director Ryoo Seung-wan presenting his huge hit from last year, The Unjust — an action thriller in which policemen, prosecutors and property developers are caught in an endless cycle of corruption. A couple of days into the festival, as part of their Bloody Friday match-up, the KOFFIA team programmed another Ryoo film: 2002’s No Blood No Tears.

As with the opening film, director Ryoo himself got up on stage and … (read more)

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The Unjust (2010)

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Image from The Unjust

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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Arahan (2004)

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If you like movies with secret masters, ancient villains, fearsome fu-skills, and buckets of butt-kicking action, then look no further: Arahan is here.

The film opens with five of the Seven Masters, bemoaning the fact that they’ve got no new disciples to learn the hidden arts. You can tell the tone of the movie immediately: several of the Masters are wearing daggy tracky dacks, and one smokes continuously. This movie does not take itself too seriously.

When we meet the … (read more)

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Crying Fist (2004)

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I must admit to approaching this film with some trepidation. After all, the only other film I’d seen by director Ryoo was Arahan, and while that was fun mindless entertaiment, I was hard-pressed to imagine him succeeding with something serious.

My fears were unfounded, because this is a genre-defying drama which succeeds wonderfully. Choi Min-shik will always be watchable, whatever the role and whatever the film, and he imbues his down-and-out boxer with real humanity. Moments that, in lesser … (read more)

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