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Archive for the ‘Crime’ Category

The-After-Dinner-Mysteries-

Reiko Hosho is the daughter of a wealthy industrialist and a rookie police detective who is assisted from the shadows by her butler Kageyama who is the picture of being a model servant in front of people but quite sharp in his tongue towards Reiko in private. Reiko and Kageyama board a cruise ship which is en- route to Singapore. It isn’t long before a body is seen falling into the sea and it’s discovered that the man in question has been murdered and had many enemies. Reiko’s boss Detective Kazamatsuri decides to solve the case as he is on the ship guarding a priceless artefact to it’s new home in Singapore. Reiko and Kageyama also decide to find out who the murderer is. Soon more bodies turn up but with 3000 people onboard the ship how can she narrow the suspects down. Are the murders linked to a master criminal named Phantom Soros? Reiko and Kageyama must capture the murderer before the ship lands at its destination.

This is the spinoff movie from the popular 2011 drama series by Fuji Television. It isn’t essential that you’ve seen the series to enjoy this movie as it’s a standalone story and there’s a handy introduction to the main players right at the start. It’s easy to see that the budget has been increased from the series for this movie with part of the filming taking place in Singapore and also on a real luxury cruise liner. All the regulars from the series return to reprise their roles.

After Dinner Mysteries screenshot

The movie mixes comedy, drama and suspense but it’s the comedic aspect that stands out the most. It tends to feel at times like an Agatha Christie mystery played out like a spoof and instead of concentrating on just Reiko and Kageyama trying to solve the murders, there are other sub-plots with other characters introduced such as a pair of bumbling thieves who plan to steal the artefact guarded by Detective Kazamatsuri. These subplots all come together in the thrilling climax. I can also see some aspects of Detective Conan in the movie too – Kageyama with his glasses looks like Conan and is superior in his sleuthing skills than anybody else, Reiko plays the Ran role while the arrogant Kazamatsuri who thinks he’s brilliant at being a detective is similar to Ran’s father Mouri. The gelling of slapstick comedy and detective drama works surprisingly well. As there are so many sub-plots taking place, there is a lot of information to take in for the viewer but not too much for anybody to become lost with the story. As with many Japanese mystery movies, there are several twists and red herrings to keep the viewer on their toes and the unveiling of the murderer will keep you guessing until the end which unfortunately is rather cliché ridden.

Keiko Kitagawa plays the wealthy heiress Reiko in a goofy kind of way. She’s taken on a similar type of role before such as the dorama Mop Girl so if you like seeing her pull funny faces and be a damsel in distress then you’ll enjoy her in this movie though I suspect some might find her character a bit annoying. Arashi member Sho Sakurai is Reiko’s foil as her faithful but sharp-tongued butler Kageyama who is never afraid to put Reiko in her place in private but in public has to put on his diligent servant persona. It makes for amusing viewing seeing the bickering that goes on between Reiko and Kageyama and it’s obvious that Keiko and Sho are enjoying themselves in their roles. Both of their characters are even taken out from the ship for a while as the murderer makes sure they are put in a lifeboat and sent overboard. They eventually land on a small island before they are rescued rather conveniently by the authorities. Of course it’s all rather far-fetched but do remember that the movie is never meant to be taken seriously. One of the most notable guest stars taking part in this movie is Naoto Takenaka as a thief. I didn’t really recognise him at first, it’s his voice that gave the game away.

All in all, this is a hugely entertaining murder mystery movie. It’s got drama, moments of danger, good comedy, a fine cast and an exciting story. Fans of the drama series will have a fun time reuniting with characters they love but even those not familiar with the drama like myself can still enjoy this movie. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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ptu -police-tactical-unit-poster

Cocky rotund HK detective Lo who has been eyeing up a group of triads whilst eating at a restaurant loses his gun when the triads beat him up after he slips on a banana in a dark alley after one of them scrapes a key against his car. A special police team called the PTU (Police Tactical Unit) led by a man named Mike who slightly bends the rules in order to solve cases finds Lo and immediately asks his team to help find the firearm before dawn but they do not tell their superiors as Lo fears that if they found out it could have serious consequences for him so they keep everything hush-hush between them. Unfortunately the situation is more complicated being that the triad leader Ponytail who ordered his underlings to beat up Lo has been murdered with a knife stuck in his back. Having tried to get to hospital by driving, he’s managed to pass out and crash the car. A rival triad gang leader is named the suspect but he denies everything. However, Ponytail’s father wants revenge for his son’s death and with Lo’s missing gun sets out to make sure that somebody pays the price. Then a separate CID team led by a female inspector begin investigating Ponytail’s murder and find that Lo is somehow involved. Will the PTU team manage to find the gun before Ponytail’s father kills somebody?

This is yet another brilliant stylish movie by HK director Johnnie To who has directed many classics over the years. It’s probably his shortest movie at just 85 mins long with the story taking place during one night somewhere in Hong Kong. Unlike his other crime thrillers which has many shootouts/action scenes with the storylines having a fast pace about them, this movie is rather slow with only 1 major bloody shootout near the climax which may disappoint some fans. You’d normally associate the city of Hong Kong as being a bustling metropolis but in this story the viewer doesn’t see that many people. The streets are nearly deserted with only one or two people walking about in the background and just as many cars driving around. The storyline has several plot threads such as the police trying to apprehend a suspect who has been smashing car windows. The actual culprit is none other than a suspicious looking kid riding around the empty streets on his bicycle. The director is adept at weaving these strands until they all come together in the finale in which lives are lost and heroics come from an unlikely source. There is also good use of light and shadow to show the dark underbelly of Hong Kong. The cinematography is fantastic and the only bad thing I can say about this movie is the awful soundtrack which is frankly terrible.

ptu screenshot

The cast of the movie is headed by the great Simon Lam, an actor I’ve admired for many years. He plays the leader of the PTU unit Mike who uses questionable tactics to help him in finding Detective Lo’s gun. The scene at an arcade parlour in which he continuously slaps a punk across the face is chilling as the viewer sees the tough guy being reduced to a quivering wreck. Mike’s dubious efforts in seeking Lo’s gun isn’t helped by the fact that he’s got a rookie in the team and that he and Lo are under suspicion by the CID team. Suet Lam also gives a brilliant performance as the comical and incompetent detective Lo who has one of the worst nights in his career. Not only does he lose his gun, he also sees his car being daubed with yellow paint and he makes an idiot of himself by slipping on a banana not once but twice! His actions this night inflame an already tense situation between two triad gangs which threatens to break out into an all-out war.

If you’re new to Johnnie To’s movies this is a good movie to start off with though it’s not his best. It might even make you want to check out more of his movies. A good solid effort from him.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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One nite in mongkok

A gang member is killed by a rival during a high speed chase in a car near Mongkok, an area of Hong Kong. A gang war is threatening to break out as the two brothers in charge of the gangs retaliate against each other. One of them hires an assassin to take out his brother. The assassin is an inexperienced young man named Lai Fu. Detective Milo and his team set out to capture Lai Fu before he does the hit by arresting the go-between Liu and his wife in order to get some information about the assassin. In order to save his own skin, Liu gives the location where Lai Fu is staying. However, Lai Fu is cleverer than that and manages to escape before the cops turn up. After saving Dan Dan, a prostitute from being beaten up by her pimp, she offers to be his tour guide in Mongkok for money. Lai Fu isn’t in Mongkok just to do a job as an assassin, he also wants to find his girlfriend Sue. Milo orders the police to tear down every bar, club and massage parlour in order to capture Lai Fu but he and Dan Dan once again are successful in evading them. However, the net is closing on the pair. Will the police eventually manage to arrest Lai Fu or will he be able to escape yet again?

This fantastic award-winning crime drama directed by the great Derek Yee is set in Mongkok, the most densely populated area on the planet. It’s a vibrant place full of shops and bars but a couple of unsavoury incidents did take place there between 2008-10 when plastic bottles full of corrosive liquid were hurled on shoppers from tall buildings. The story does not take place during one night but over several days and deals with people working in the seedier side of life such as pimps, assassins, prostitutes and triad gang members. It’s not your typical assassin movie. The main characters in the movie are Lai Fu and Dan Dan whose meeting starts off a chain of events that will end in tragedy. All of the characters that the viewer is introduced have their fates intertwined with each other. There’s a grittiness attached to the plot which director Yee exploits to the full. He also shows the viewer how beautiful Mongkok looks at night with all its neon lights. It succeeds in displaying a part of Hong Kong you might not be familiar with and the dark underbelly that exists there. The camerawork used by Yee is fantastic. As well as our two main characters, a lot of focus is on the police team under Detective Milo who are pissed off at having to work during Christmas Eve when the majority want to go home to their families.  A naïve rookie joins their ranks and unexpectedly manages to get himself into a lot of trouble during a raid on an apartment to capture Lai Fu in which he kills an unarmed man. Milo went through a similar experience when he was younger and it has haunted him since. However, lady luck is on the police’s side and the team manage to come away with their noses clean after finding some drugs in the dead man’s place. It’s interesting to see the prickly relationship between the veteran Milo and the eager and cocky new recruit. During the second half of the movie things get really tense as the net closes on Lai Fu with Milo relentlessly pursuing all avenues to get his man. Don’t expect to see a happy ending (not that I thought that was going to happen anyway) as the plot goes dark and events get bloody and brutal.

one nite in mongkok 2004

Daniel Wu and Cecilia Cheung are excellent in their roles as Lai Fu and Dan Dan and have great chemistry together. It’s good that Yee doesn’t go down the route of having the pair fall in love. There are hints that perhaps they do like each other but it never goes any further than that. Both characters share a common bond having come from the same area of China and being from poor families. I’ve never been a fan of Daniel Wu in the past. I think his acting skills are rather limited but he does a good job here as the shy and inexperienced assassin. It might be the best performance I’ve seen from him. Lai Fu is not what you would call a typical cold-hearted killer either and the viewer will feel some sympathy towards him. It’s heartbreaking to watch when he finds out that his girlfriend Sue may be a prostitute even though he is adamant she isn’t and when he discovers her face in a local paper and that she’s been involved in a car accident (she was a passenger in the car during the high speed chase at the beginning of the movie and has been badly burned after the car caught fire). Lai Fu might look weedy to some but he can take care of himself and proves to be handy with his fists even though he does get beaten up very badly near the climax. Lai Fu’s face is a mask of crimson after Dan Dan’s boss extracts revenge on him by smashing his head repeatedly on a brass door handle. I really liked how Yee linked the tragic events at the climax involving Lai Fu with the life ebbing away from the badly burned Sue at hospital.

A big part of why I wanted to watch this movie was because of the lovely Cecilia Cheung. She was amazing in the movie Failan and she pulls off another great performance here. Although her character of Dan Dan might seem on the surface to be a likeable woman, she is not averse to stealing money from Lai Fu’s rucksack after he takes off after a man who steals her bag. Lai Fu does find his money in her bag but does nothing about it and lets her keep it. Some people might say that Cheung’s prostitute is just too beautiful but I’m not complaining. I’ve read that her voice has been dubbed over as she couldn’t speak Mandarin properly. Alex Fong is also superb as Milo who’s a worthwhile adversary for Lai Fu with the rest of the supporting cast performing well.

One Nite In Mongkok is a very well made movie with an engaging and thrilling plot, well drawn out characters and it has tons of atmosphere. I found it to be extremely entertaining and would recommend it to HK movie fans.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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no-mercy-for-the-rude-dvd

Killa is a mute assassin who was born with a short tongue and is saving all the money he earns from killing to have surgery to correct his tongue which will cost $100,000. Killa loves seafood and watching bullfighting on the TV. He dreams of being a famous matador even though there are no bulls in South Korea. As he was a chef before, he prefers to use knives when he kills and only murders those who he sees as being rude. Killa is getting closer to reaching his target for his surgery but his life is about to change. In a bar that he frequents, a women starts to become attached to him and he also takes in a young street urchin. Things are to become even more complicated when he botches up on one job and some gangsters come looking for him. It puts himself and his new surrogate family in big trouble.

This is a dark South Korean comedy which surprised me in how good it really was. It’s written extremely well and directed competently by Cheol –hie Park. Even though he’s a mute, Killa provides narration throughout the movie which has got a wry sarcastic edge to it. It’s got a nice balance between comedy and action though some of the violence is very graphic and bloody. All of the characters are fleshed out well explaining their motivations through back stories. It seems that Killa is a part of a group of assassins that meet regularly for food and drink from his best friend, a former ballet dancer who turned to killing after his career was cut short through injury and a martial arts instructor who couldn’t make ends meet. They might not look as cool as Killa in his black attire and shades but they’re certainly not buffoons when it comes to killing either. The interaction between this league of assassins is funny to watch and they’re all likeable characters.

No-Mercy-for-the-Rude screenshot

The movie starts out as more of a comedy but gradually more dramatic elements are thrown into the plot which provides suspense but even then it still maintains a black comedic edge to proceedings. The peril that befalls Killa and his new makeshift family as they fall foul of some gangsters thanks to a job that goes wrong due to mistaken identity makes for interesting viewing. It’s all the more gripping to watch as we’ve started to care for Killa and it inevitably leads to a melodramatic and tragic conclusion. The title of the movie is straight forward enough as it’s Killa’s motto and he only offs those that deserves it. Maybe that’s how he justifies himself being an assassin in that no innocent people are targeted and only the bad guys are killed.

I already knew that Ha-Kyun Shin was a great actor having seen him in Save The Green Planet and he pulls off another great performance in this movie. He manages to strike a fine balance between being silly and serious. Coincidentally he also played a mute character in Sympathy For Mr Vengeance. Yun Ji-hie is the aggressive woman at the bar who forces herself in Killa’s life. There’s a good twist right at the end of the movie when it is shown that both Killa and the woman had a link in the past when they were both growing up.

All in all, an impressive movie. There has been numerous movies with mute assassins over the years but I thought that that this one stood out from the rest. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Shinjuku Outlaw dvd

Yomi is a yakuza henchman in Hiroshima. His boss is dying from cancer in hospital and the clan members are worried that his impending death will make their rivals move in on their territory. Yomi volunteers to kill the boss of a rival clan so that any idea they’ve got of trying to moving into their turf will be quashed. A plan is arranged that once the job is over Yomi will be picked up by the police should he survive. He tracks the rival boss to a bowling alley where he is having fun with his family which includes his young granddaughter. He manages to kill the boss but he isn’t so lucky in escaping and he is mown down in a hail of bullets by the boss’ bodyguards. He survives the ordeal but only just. He falls into a coma as he arrives at the prison hospital and wakes up 10 years later where many things have changed. His trusted friend Eto has moved to Tokyo and taken Yomi’s girlfriend Ayumi with him to run a Filipino prostitution ring. Eto has run himself into some debts and when Yomi comes to visit him he is kidnapped by those he owes money for. To the surprise of many people, Yomi decides he’d like to help Eto out. Everybody thought he’d kill Eto for stealing his girl. The Shinjuku yakuza hear about Yomi’s arrival in Tokyo and make him an offer that he simply can’t refuse by forcing him to work for them. In doing so, Yomi gets himself entangled in a situation which involves a corrupt cop and the Taiwanese mafia.

This is one of Takashi Miike’s earliest yakuza works and although this movie isn’t quite as extreme as what he would release later in his career, the viewer will quite clearly be able to see that some elements are beginning to come through (a yakuza is beaten up in the street by a Taiwanese mafia member who then urinates on his prone body before shooting his brains out!). If there’s one thing you can say about Miike’s yakuza movies they are entertaining as hell and so different to anybody else. Even a low budget yakuza movie such as this one by Miike is better than what many established directors can come up with in the genre. The plot is interesting about the Japanese yakuza having some issues with the Taiwanese mafia who are hoping to take over their rackets. The movie also has some quirky characters – a staple feature of Miike’s movies. The pairing of Yomi with a streetwise Filipino prostitute working for the Taiwanese mafia is a good one although there’s a twist in their relationship right near the end of the movie. You can see it coming a mile off that something is bound to happen between them.

Shinjuku Outlaw screenshot

If there’s one thing Miike doesn’t shy away from in his movies is in his depiction of violence against women. One scene features a young woman being battered in her apartment by a yakuza member. It’s a vicious prolonged assault which has the unfortunate woman being thrown down some stairs, getting her head smashed into a wooden door before it ends with her collapsing into a heap in her bathroom. It’s an uncomfortable scene to watch so be warned if you don’t like seeing violence against women. Was it necessary to have such a scene in the movie? Probably not as it doesn’t serve any purpose whatsoever but that’s Takashi Miike for you. He also ups the violence factor in the final third as the battle between the Japanese yakuza and the Taiwanese mafia spills out into the streets. The brutality of the Taiwanese gang members is there for all to see as the viewer witnesses a montage showing one member shooting one of the yakuza whilst dancing. You could only see something as bizarre as this in a Miike movie!

Hiroyuki Watanabe is great as the lead character Yomi. I don’t think I’ve seen him in anything before. He carries the role really well although all he has to do if I’m being honest is try to act tough but the same thing can be said about all of the cast members playing yakuza members. They’re not going to win any awards for their acting that’s for sure. Ruby Moreno is also solid as the Filipino actress playing the character of the prostitute that Yomi strikes up a relationship with.

Shinjuku Outlaws will never be one of Takashi Miike’s best movies but if you want to see the great man at the start of his career where he honed his skills as a storyteller and director, I’m sure this movie will more than satisfy anybody.

I’m sorry but there’s no trailer for this movie.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Here we go with last month’s movies that I checked out. Those that I’ve reviewed will not be in this list:

Kamen_Rider_W_Forever_A_to_Z_The_Gaia_Memories_of_Fate

Kamen Rider W Forever: A To Z/The Gaia Memories of Fate
3 stars out of 5

The Isle 2000
The Isle
3.5 stars out of 5

Satan Returns 1996
Satan Returns
2.5 stars out of 5

Ah My Goddess movie
Ah! My Goddess! The Movie
3.5 stars out of 5

BladeOfFuryCover
Blade Of Fury
2.5 stars out of 5

Riding Bean
Riding Bean
3 stars out of 5

Utsushimi
Utsushimi
3 stars out of 5

Boukenger vs Super Sentai
GoGo Sentai Boukenger Vs Super Sentai
3 stars out of 5

CopsVsThugs_DVD
Cops vs Thugs
3 stars out of 5

kamen_rider_agito_project_g4
Kamen Rider Agito: Project G4
3 stars out of 5

hunter-x-hunter-phantom-rouge
Hunter x Hunter: Phantom Rouge
3 stars out of 5

Sailor Moon S The Movie
Sailor Moon S The Movie: Hearts In Ice
3.5 stars out of 5

Stone Age Warriors
Stone Age Warriors
3 stars out of 5

intoadream
Into A Dream
3 stars out of 5

Hot For Teacher
Hot For Teacher
4 stars out of 5

Street Mobster
Street Mobster
4 stars out of 5

Wolf Children
Wolf Children
4 stars out of 5

Megalopolis Expressway Trial
Megalopolis Expressway Trial
3.5 stars out of 5

pleasure-kill-poster
Pleasure Kill
3 stars out of 5

Labyrinth of Dreams
Labyrinth Of Dreams
3 stars out of 5

Sixty-Million-Dollar-Man
Sixty Million Dollar Man
4 stars out of 5

redpeonygambler
Red Peony Gambler
3 stars out of 5

About Her Brother
About Her Brother
3.5 stars out of 5

Eros High School
Eros High School: Feels So Good
2.5 stars out of 5

samuraisentaishinkenger
Samurai Sentai Shinkenger vs. Go-onger: GinmakuBang!!
3 stars out of 5

Charisma
Charisma
3.5 stars out of 5

girl-boss-crazy-ball-game
Girl Boss: Crazy Ball Game
3.5 stars out of 5

origin_-_spirits_of_the_past
Origin: Spirits Of The Past
2.5 stars out of 5

Girl-Boss-Blues-Queen-Bee_s-Counterattack
Girl Boss Blues: Queen Bee’s Counterattack
3.5 stars out of 5

mardock-scramble-the-first-compression
Mardock Scramble: The First Compression
3.5 stars out of 5

Mardock Scramble Second Combustion
Mardock Scramble: The Second Combustion
2.5 stars out of 5

alone_across_the_pacific_masters_of_cinema_series_uk_dvd
Alone Across The Pacific
3.5 stars out of 5

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Late Chrysanthemums
2.5 stars out of 5

Planzet
Planzet
3 stars out of 5

Guzoo
Guzoo: The Thing Forsaken by God – Part I
3 stars out of 5

angel-s-egg-mystical-egg-of-the-angels-1985
Angel’s Egg
2 stars out of 5

Raise The Red Lantern
Raise The Red Lantern
4.5 stars out of 5

red-spell
Red Spell Spells Red
3 stars out of 5

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Die Bad (2000)

Die-Bad-2000

Park Sung-bin is a part of a teenage gang. At a pool hall an argument breaks out between his gang and another from an art school which turns into a full scale fight. It results in him grabbing a bottle and smashing it over one boy’s head. As the boy falls to the floor, his bloodstained head hits a pool table very hard. He is dead on hitting the floor. Sung-bin is sent to jail. 7 years later he is released and a plain clothes policeman is charged with keeping an eye out for him in case he reoffends. His father isn’t proud of him due to the social stigma of having an ex-con as a member of the family. He manages to get a job though in a local garage thanks to his older brother but he starts getting visions of the boy he killed all those years ago. As he is walking home one night he sees a man being attacked by 4 thugs. Sung-bin is hesitant at first to assist as he doesn’t want to get into trouble with the law but in the end he does. The man he has saved Kim Tae-hoon is a gangster and he takes Sung-bin under his wing and back into the world of crime. As time goes by, Sung-bin is unaware that a gang of youths he’s recruited are about to be used by his boss as knife-fodder in a horrific battle and he’ll come face to face in a showdown with a police officer who he will recognise as an old friend who was involved in the fateful fight at the pool hall all those years ago.

South Koreans like their gangster movies a lot. They usually make pots of money at the box office. It makes you wonder just why they find these types of movies so fascinating. Is it something to do with the romantic image that gangsters have in the country I wonder? This is one of the better efforts from South Korea and it is stylishly directed by Ryu Sung-Wan (on his debut) who made this movie on a shoestring budget and employed friends and family in the production. The story is broken down into 4 parts:

Rumble – two school male gangs start fighting each other at a pool hall which leads to Sung-bin killing somebody.

Nightmare – this segment fast forwards 7 years on as Sung-bin is released from prison and his descent into crime after rescuing a crime boss from a beating.

Modern Man – the viewer is introduced to Suk-Hwan, an old friend of Sung-bin who is now a police officer. He is staking out Sung-bin’s boss. This segment is interspersed with Suk-Hwan talking to the camera as if he’s being interviewed.

Die Bad – Sung-bin’s teenage gang is involved in a brutal fight unaware that they are being used and two former friends in Sung-bin and Suk-Hwan face off in a showdown.

Die Bad screenshot

As per usual in Korean gangster movies, this is a gritty and very violent movie. We’re talking proper brutal stuff on display. It’s lucky that the final segment which is a short film-noir is mostly in black and white as there is a lot of bloodshed and stabbings galore during the gang fight melee that takes place. It’s the different camera techniques that the director uses which makes this stand out from other Korean gangster movies. It has a washed out and grainy look about it. I loved how Ryu Sung-Wan has managed to piece together these 4 segments into one seamless story that takes place over a decade. It’s a well thought out story full of energy and great performances from the cast and what may surprise you is no guns are used at all. When you think of gangsters you think of people with guns but not in this movie. Lead pipes and knives seem to be the favoured weapons in this movie. The fights are realistic. They might not be pretty to watch but that’s how fights are in real life. The director makes it clear to not glorify the violence that’s seen during the movie. It’s a dark story highlighting the grimier side of Seoul and with characters that don’t have many options in life but follow a life of crime.

Die Bad provides a refreshing new look on the gangster genre. It’s a great showcase for highlighting the innovative ways that the director has used to convey the story.  Ryu Sung-Wan would go on to direct such great movies as Arahan, City of Violence and Crying First (all 3 are well worth watching btw).  This movie was a fantastic debut from a promising director at the time.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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