Reantimator's back with 12 top picks - this time, he's lookin' through his scope and pointing his actiony gun at the South Korean output of the last decade or so. Here we go...I'm lookin' forward to this!
As with my little look at 12 Hong Kong Movies That Kick It...Hard!!!, this list o' twelve isn't in any particular order. That is, apart from this first one.
This film, although not a full on explosion 'n' gunfight filled carnage-o-ramathon, is SO DARN GOOD that it deserves a place at Reantimator's 'Numero Uno South Korean Movie' spot any day of the week.
It focuses on Kang Chul-Jung, a douche bag (and majorly corrupt) cop, played AMAZINGLY by Sol Kyung-Gu (Haeundae / Tidal Wave, Silmido), who happens upon a knife-wielding hooded assailant whilst on a lazy stakeout session. On top of this, he gets a small facial cut in the process...and a poo-stained hand! (don't ask, just watch!). Little does he know that the assailant is Cho Kyu-Hwan, an outwardly upstanding member of the community (played with a real coldness by Lee Sung-Jae - Kick The Moon, Attack the Gas Station) who has just murdered his own parents for their money!
When Kang is let in on the double-murder case of Lee's folks, and after meeting Lee himself, his instinctual - and little used - detective skills kick back in to action and he is convinced that the preppy, white-collar big shot is his man. This leads to a full on, down 'n' dirty, game of cat and mouse between the two polar opposites.
Kang Woo-Suk's (Hanbando, Moss) direction here is top notch, as well as all the technical aspects of the production. Like most South Korean movies of the last 15 years, this busts the 2 hour running time - and then some. But unlike a lot of projects, it doesn't suffer because of this. In fact, every time I view it I wish it was longer...a lot longer!
The two things that really shine are the performances, both from the two leads and from the amazing supporting cast, and the remarkably simple, but effective, script - penned by Kim Hyun-Jung (writer / director of Double Agent). It does exactly what it says on the tin, and does it in spades.
If you've seen it before - SEE IT AGAIN, and if you haven't - SEE IT NOW!
Also worthy of note is that the film garnered two sequels, Another Public Enemy and Public Enemy Returns, both of which are top notch (although not quite on par with this masterpiece) and feature many of the original cast and crew.
Here we feature a modern monster movie directed by Bong Joon-Ho and starring Park Chan Wook regular, Song Kang-Ho (The Good, The Bad, The Weird and Thirst).
After some military types dump a shed-load of formaldehyde into the Han River, South Korea, a mutated beast emerges from it's waters. Somewhat squirrel-like, it has taken a bunch of humans - including our unlikely leading man, Park Gang-Du's daughter, Hyun-Seo, played by Ko Ah-Sung - and has hidden them for safe-keeping so it can feed on them in the not-too-distant future.
It is up to our hero, along with his failed Olympic archer sister, Nam-Joo (Bae Doo-Na - Sympathy For Mr Vengeance, The Tube), and the rest of his rag-tag family to find and hopefully save her from the aquatic beast.
Although the plot is pretty much par-for-the-course stuff, it really packs a punch. The initial 'Monster Reveal' sequence where we see Hyun-Seo captured is beautifully realised, and the special effects - which include some nice CGI with a little animatronics wizardry - are right on the money.
This is another instance where the South Koreans have proved that they're more than a match for their western counterparts.
More epic running time goodness is to be had here with this hugely melodramatic, and immensely enjoyable, war movie from Kang Je-Gyu (director of the awesome Nikita-alike, Shiri / Swiri).
It stars Dong-gun Jang (Typhoon, The Promise) and Won Bin (from Mother and the fantastic The Man From Nowhere) as Jin-Tae and Jin-Seok, two brothers living a quiet and peaceful life, where everything is happy and gay, where there's no troubles or cares. Nothing could ever mar their little slice of heaven...EXCEPT WAR!!!
Yep, it's war on a massive scale. North versus South (or vice versa, depending on how you look at it), brother against brother, friend against friend. Our two brother protagonists are thrown right in it, and thrown in DEEP!
After a kind of slow and subdued start, you get the feeling that it's all going to be rather like that all the way through...it isn't! When the warring, the in-fighting, the swapping sides and the carnage starts, it never lets up. Yes, there are brief aforementioned melodramatic interludes peppered throughout, and the cheese factor is high in places, but that doesn't stop this being one helluva war movie that isn't backward in going forward.
If you think Steven Spielberg's Saving Private Ryan's got scope, you ain't seen nothin' yet. I can remember thinking: 'How the hell did they get hold of the sort of coin needed to produce such a high quality product?' when I first saw this film and, to be honest, I still ask myself the same question now.
Unless you are particularly ignorant to the goings on in the Korean War, you're not going to learn a huge amount about history or the politics of the situation, and you're not going to get a new and original approach to the war genre. What you are going to get is an amazingly emotional, and at the same time, brutal and beautifully made movie that - although rather long (running at nearly two-and-a-half hours) - will, after the long intro, keep you gripped to your seat from beginning to end.
That's ya lot for now, but I will return in the near future, like some sort of deranged Phoenix from the flames, to give you the next 3 entries in my sock rockin' list!