Posts Tagged ‘Korean’


1986 Gyunggi Province. The body of a young woman is found brutally raped and murdered. Two months later, a series of rapes and murders commences under similar circumstances. And in a country that had never known such crimes, the dark whispers about a serial murderer grow louder. A special task force is set up in the area, with two local detectives Park Doo-Man and Jo Young-Goo joined by a detective from Seoul who requested to be assigned to the case, Seo Tae-Yoon. Park personifies the policeman who goes with his instincts and his fists, bloodily challenging every small-time crook in the area to confess. In contrast, Seo pores over evidentiary documents related to the case and inevitably the clash of styles leads to tense rivalry. From the fact that not a single hair is ever found at the scene, Park takes off to search the area’s temples and public baths for men with pubic hair disease, while Seo finds a pattern in the evidence of women wearing red on a rainy day as the victim’s profile. On a rainy day, the detectives set up a trap in order to forestall another murder. The next day however, yet another woman is found murdered. The solution to the murders grows fainter and drives the detectives to ever greater despair.

I will go on record here to say this is probably the finest Korean movie I’ve ever seen. It’s a masterpiece. Powerful, gutwrenching, even humorous at times with a taut script, this movie about South Korea’s first ever serial killer is one that nobody will ever forget after watching it. It’s also based on a true story in which 3000 suspects were questioned and 1.8 million cops were involved according to the prologue. Despite the police’s best efforts, the killer was never found and is still at large in South Korea. It seemed the killer was calculated, meticulous and always one step ahead of the police in everything he did. The story begins in 1986 with the discovery of a woman’s body with her hands tied in a drainage culvert, this sets off a chain of events in which more victims turn up. Each victim has been strangled by their own stockings. The two local detectives on the case including their chief are clearly seen to be completely out of their depth. They also don’t seem to have a clue as to how to keep a crime scene clean until the forensic team arrive with kids and even tractors trampling over vital evidence. Enter Detective Seo Tae-Yun from Seoul who provides a different approach to the case. Instead of using brutality to coerce a confession out of suspects, he uses a more rational way of trying to find the killer. It’s inevitable that he and the local detectives clash. But even with Seo Tae-Yun on board with some clues being found, it becomes apparent that the police force is becoming desperate to nail this sadistic killer. Pinning their hopes on a man with smooth hands after a confession from a female victim who wasn’t killed and the fact that he sent a request for a song ‘Sad Letter’ to be played on the radio on every night a woman is killed, the 3 detectives begin to investigate him. With some evidence sent to the US for verification because South Korea didn’t have DNA testing at the time, they hope that it will prove without a shadow of a doubt that this is their man.

memories-of-murder screenshot

The story is so engrossing and compelling. It sucks you right into the investigation and you definitely feel the frustration of the detectives building up as more bodies turn up. It might not have the Hollywood theatrics of Se7en or The Silence Of The Lambs but don’t believe for a second that this movie is inferior to them in any way shape or form. The movie also gives a good history lesson about the state of South Korea during the mid 80’s when it was still under a military dictatorship with martial law being declared at night with an air-raid siren going off, social unrest happening on the streets and schools participating in an emergency rehearsal in case of an attack by the North. Director Bong Joon-ho has crafted a fantastic suspensful thriller with beautiful haunting cinematography and an amazing soundtrackwhich keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout the 2 hours or so running time. If I had to pick out highlights from the movie it would come down to the fantastic chase scene during the night and a brilliant free-for-all brawl at a restaurant as tensions boil over from one of the detectives who has been suspended due to overuse of violence on a suspect. Don’t expect to find a happy ending to the story though there is an intriguing final scene at the location of the first murder.

The acting from Song Kang-ho, Kim Roe-ha and Kim Sang-kyung as the detectives on the case is excellent and it’s sad to see them fail in their task to being the killer to task despite giving their all to the case day after day. It’s interesting to see how the relationship between the 2 country detectives and the city detective develop as the story progresses. Initially there is a rivalry between them due to their differing styles of investigating – the country pair are either lazy or plain stupid as they blatantly frame suspects and play the good cop/bad cop routine in order to get a confession but all three men become bound together by frustration as each clue they find brings them no closer to catching the real suspect.

Memories Of Murder is an unmissable movie. It’s an exceptional movie in all aspects and I have no hesitation in highly recommending it.

Sadako’s Rating: 5 stars out of 5

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Sex Is Zero 2 (2007)

Sex Is Zero 2

Law student Eun-sik and swimming champ Kyung-ah are a couple in a university whose relationship has been solid for three years, Eun-sik struggles to proceed to the ‘next step’ with Kyung-ah, and despite the help and support of his friends, does not manage to get her into bed. Making things worse is Gi-joo, a current prosecuting attorney and Kyung-ah’s old boyfriend, who keeps interfering with the couple. Eun-sik fears that Kyung-ah will turn her back on him and is determined to get her back…

The Korean equivalent to American Pie returns with a sequel due to the popularity of the first movie and reuniting the majority of the cast. Even though the story and some of the jokes have been recycled, it is still a very funny movie and IMO better than the first. With director Yoon Je Kyun coming back to helm this movie, he made the point of making sure the bar was raised from the first movie. This means there are more gross out gags to enjoy such as when 2 of Eun-sik’s friends stick a lollipop up the arse of a person who is drunk and sleeping in his room. When they pull it out it falls on the floor and who should come in to the room at the time to pick it up and put it in his mouth is Eun-sik himself or when he is caught dry-humping a statue whilst completely drunk on the campus grounds with an erection which shocks several women! If that’s the kind of humour you like then you’ll find this movie a lot of fun to watch. It outdoes American Pie with it’s grossness. There’s a lot of risque content as well with nudity and sex. The plot which focuses on the bumps in the road that Eun-sik and Kyung-ah encounter in their relationship is great and they come across as a sweet and likeable couple. Eun-sik belongs to the K-1 MMA university team whilst Kyung-ah is the star player in the swimming team and we get to see plenty of humorous antics between both teams. It’s an excuse basically to see plenty of girls in skimpy bathing costumes which will no doubt please many male viewers! Naturally it’s Eun-sik that gets into trouble a lot with Kyung-ah due to various things that happen over the course of the movie – most of it due to his habit of getting drunk. The fun does disappear in the final 30 mins as the movie turns more to drama as we get to see just how the couple met in hospital for the first time, why Kyung-ah has been reluctant in having sex with Eun-sik and it looks like he has to give up on Kyung-ah due to her interfering mother who insists that she go to America with Gi-joo to have a better life with him. I was glad it didn’t go down the dark road of the first movie but there are plenty of tears shed. It’s heartbreaking as Eun-sik tells Kyung-ah that he wants to break up with her in a bar. As he doesn’t tell her a valid enough reason for why he wants to finish, Kyung-ah desperately tries to cling on to the relationship. It is only after a nasty riposte from Eun-sik about Kyung-ah’s past that makes her walk out saying she doesn’t want to see him ever again. The realisation dawns on him on what he’s done and the viewer sees Eun-sik with his head in his arms, slumped down and crying hard. You will feel for him. Thankfully the story gives us a heartwarming ending that leaves everybody satisfied and happy. The cast look like they had a ball making this movie which can be seen in the out-takes during the end credits. Comedian Lim Chang Jung and Song Ji Hyo are excellent as Eun-sik and Kyung-ah.

Sex Is Zero 2 screenshot

If you’re a person that’s not offended by gross out comedy and loved the first Sex Is Zero movie then you’re bound to find this movie rather entertaining and hilarious.

Sadako’s Rating: 3 stars out of 5

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Byung-Gu is an ordinary young man living in Korea. He believes that all of the earth’s social ills are the evil doings of aliens. That’s why he knows that unless he can meet the prince from Andromeda before the total lunar eclipse, Planet Earth will be in grave danger. In order to meet the prince, he must find an extraterrestrial living on earth. So Byung-Gu kidnaps the most logical suspect, Kang Man-shik, the president and CEO of Yoojae Chemical Company. Thus starts the battle between Byung-Gu who’s trying to uncover a secret alien plot to destroy the earth and CEO Kang Man-Shik, who thinks Byung-Gu’s nuts and is trying desperately to escape. Only four hours until the total lunar eclipse. When the eclipse is over, the time will run out for Planet Earth. Can Byung-Gu singlehandedly save the planet?

This is a very interesting Korean movie which combines many genres into a potent mix all of it’s own. It’s one of those movies that only comes along every once in a while which is so unusual and unique that it just impresses you. The blend of comedy, psychological thriller, horror, police drama and satire works brilliantly. It never fails to surprise you and the movie easily switches from comedy in one scene to a nasty torture moment in a dank basement with a lot of blood in the next. The first 15 mins will give you an idea whether this movie is something you like or not. It might seem a little strange but once you get into the plot and the characters you’ll immerse yourself into this fantastic movie. Don’t let the DVD cover lull you into thinking this is some kind of wacky comedy because it is far from being that. The thrill in watching this movie lies in where it’s going to take you. It’s best to come in with an open mind, sit back and just enjoy the wild ride that unfolds. There are many surprises, some twists and original ideas thrown in. It isn’t a movie for everyone though and it’s certainly not to be seen by families. Some people will be turned off by the graphic violence and situations that take place but if you’re used to watching anything by Takashi Miike or Park Chan-wook then you should be fine with this movie. Director Jang Jun-Hwan paces this movie perfectly and the ‘is he or isn’t he an alien’ question is finally resolved at the conclusion. You’ll never be able to hear the song ‘Somewhere Over The Rainbow’ in the same way again after watching this movie.

The acting is incredible with an amazing performance by Ha-kyun Shin as Byung-Gu. Here we have an individual who is convinced that aliens have infiltrated this planet and have changed their genetics to resemble a human being that it consumes him. The aliens can apparently communicate back to their home planet telepathically by their hair strands! He sees it as his quest to thwart and overpower these aliens as he believes they were responsible for making his mother ill who is lying comatose in a hospital. He has kidnapped many individuals before because he believed they were aliens (13 before targeting Kang Man-shik) and taken them back to his mountain top lair where he straps them into a chair and begins torturing them for information on their true origins. Byung-Gu thinks the aliens will be able to withstand the punishment he gives them. It will be easy for the viewer to tag Byung-Gu as being mentally unstable. Given his violent behaviour towards Kang Man-Shik, you will still gradually begin to like and sympathise with Byung-Gu.

Funny, tense, horrifying and inevitably tragic,  Save The Green Planet is a thought provoking, challenging, disturbing but ultimately a very special and outstanding movie that shouldn’t be missed out by Asian movie fans. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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1990. A number of children suddenly disappear. Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense selects an elite group of scientists for a top-secret mission. Then, 30 years later … The year is 2020 on a reunified Korean Peninsula. A string of murders is committed against retired scientists. The Special Investigations (SI) unit staffed by a crack team from the former North and South Koreas and outfitted with the latest technology is brought in to investigate. The killer, however, far from being deterred, taunts them with a signature pendant at every murder scene. In an act of devilish boldness he even kidnaps the son of the investigation team’s leader, Seok. Then, in a stakeout, Seok manages to shoot dead one of the murderer’s underlings. Cloaked in the man’s clothes, however, is Seok’s son, now dead by the hand of his father … Meanwhile, in the megapolis Intercity, the chief of police is kidnapped right in front of his heavy security detail and the culprit leaves another pendant at the scene. The chief’s daughter, Hui-su, a talented criminal psychologist quickly joins the investigation to find her father. Soon, Seok discovers that he and Hui-su share an uncanny bond…

This movie had a lot of potential to be a very good movie but in the end it was all a big mess. The filmmakers have tried to make a Hollywood type blockbuster but it fails miserably. It looks great visually (probably the only good thing I can say about this movie) and the cityscapes with its dark wet neon streets will remind many of Blade Runner but the script is quite confusing and it goes on for way too long. At 2 hours long it just drags. There doesn’t seem to be any coherent structure in the story. I nearly fell asleep by the time the credits came up begging for the movie to finish, that’s how bored I was with it. Even the numerous gunfights in the movie lacked any excitement. There’s too much techno-babble about genetics and cloning going on and the pacing of the movie is all over the show. The plot doesn’t have a lot to offer and there’s no character development. As such you don’t really care for the characters at all because they’re all dull. The acting is poor with many of the actors sleepwalking in their roles with no emotion showing on their faces. They don’t show any passion or enthusiasm in their performances. The majority of the cast look like they didn’t want to be in the movie. This was director Jeong Yun-Su’s debut behind the camera and it becomes obvious quite quickly that he has no idea how to put together a decent sci-fi actioner. I have no idea if the other 3 movies he’s directed since this one are any better?

Overall, some nice special effects and stylish production values isn’t enough to keep me interested if the story isn’t that good. Mediocre. Give it a wide berth.

Sadako’s Rating: 2 stars out of 5

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The Guard Post (2008)

Aka GP506

In the heavily fortified DMZ between the two Koreas, the South’s Guard Post 506 has experienced mystifying events on a cataclysmic scale. 20 soldiers are reported dead, leaving one sole survivor at GP 506. Higher level military authorities scramble to uncover the mysteries behind these deaths and appoint Sergeant Noh, considered the best in the military, to lead the investigation. The deaths are particularly sensitive, because one of the victims is thought to be Lt. Yoo, the son of the Army’s Chief of General Staff. Making things more difficult for Sergeant Noh is that the Army has given him until 6 AM to finish his investigation. The investigation group arrive at GP 506 under torrential rains, resulting in the investigative group becoming trapped within GP 506 themselves. They find a comatose Corporal Kang with an axe in his hand. A video tape is also discovered of Corporeal Kang stating his intentions to kill the entire unit at GP 506. Then, Lieutenant Yoo is found alive but severely traumatized. The minutes tick away, 6 AM is quickly approaching , while the investigation team at GP 506 uncover even more startlingly secrets.

From the director of R-Point comes another army platoon in peril horror movie. Although I found R-Point to be rather muddled, this movie is a lot better and far more entertaining although the running time has been pushed too far at 2 hours long. It could have been cut by a good 30 mins and it wouldn’t have affected the movie at all, in fact it would have made the story run more smoothly. Don’t be misled by some people or the trailer into believing this is a zombie movie because it isn’t. The movie starts with a bang as the soldiers find the lone survivor of a massacre at GP506 all bloodied and holding an axe. From the opening frame, the story is tense and nerve racking as the viewer is gradually shown the horrifying secrets of the base and what is happening to the soldiers. The story is well written and cleverly structured with some flashbacks weaved into the main plot that keeps the viewer enthralled. There’s an oppresive and menacing air to the guard post location and the director uses light and darkness to create an atmosphere of dread to the viewer. Thankfully there are no cheap scares included and while some Asian horrors build up to a somewhat disappointing conclusion, I can safely say that nobody will be disappointed by the suspense filled and gripping finale in this movie. The second half of the movie is just an unrelenting trip into terror. As this is a horror movie there’s a fair amount of blood spilling with many unpleasant situations that make this quite a visceral experience. It has a very good balance of using psychological scares and gore to create one of the best Asian survival horror in recent times.

Director Kong Su Chang has come up with a great horror movie which delivers good acting from the cast, nice direction and a solid atmosphere. Asian horror fans will definitely find much to enjoy here.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Young-Gun is a virgin who always tries to do the right thing. He wanders around the city every night as protector of the people. Nobody asked Young-Gun to do this and he doesn’t get paid, but he risks his life for the common good and also picks up trash along the way. One evening, he hears a woman screaming. After fighting with 3 mysterious men, Young-Gun saves her and takes her back to his house. Her name is Ha-Monica. Young-Gun has a crush on her, but she is an alien who has been sent to Earth to increase her species although he doesn’t know that. Before dawn, she has to find the best sperm and become impregnated. Young-Gun has taken a vow of chastity until marriage, so he can’t give the alien what she wants. Throughout the long night the beautiful alien tries to get his sperm. Can the thirty something virgin Young-Gun overcome tempation from the alien? Can Young-Gun save Planet Earth?

Before I do the review let me just say that there is no alien bikini in this movie at all. An alien female in some underwear maybe but no bikini! Got it, OK let’s get on with the review! I came into this movie thinking it was some kind of comedy and whilst the first half of the movie has some comedy it moves into darker territory by the 2nd half with some blood being spilled. You may have read the movie summary thinking this is like the sci-fi horror movie SPECIES and you’d be right about that except there’s no nudity, nasty horror or any action. The movie is a bit of a mixed bag and considering it only runs for 75 mins that may have been a blessing in disguise. The majority of the movie is set in Young-Gun’s apartment. Both Ha-Monica and Young-Gun are quite awkward around each other at first with Young-Gun really shy as he’s never had a woman in his apartment before. A game of jenga soon settles their nerves. The by-now flirty behaviour by Ha-Monica on Young-Gun progresses into something very sexual as she uses her feminine ways to try and get him to have sex with her. It’s quite funny seeing Young-Gun being sexually tormented by Ha-Monica. Which hot blooded male wouldn’t get turned on by the very beautiful alien but Young-Gun is adamant not to break his vow of chastity. The tone of the movie so far had been lightweight and fun but then it veers dramatically into a battle between the two as Ha-Monica resorts to various torture methods by tying Young-Gun up to extract the sperm she requires. She tries to rape him and even attempts a blowjob which results in her mouth being bloody. It goes even further into the dark side when Young-Gun breaks free and repeatedly punches Ha-Monica in the face thanks to a flashback sequence which showed that Young-Gun had suffered abuse at the hands of his father when he was younger. The torture by Ha-Monica has triggered something inside Young-Gun reminding him of the past and he snaps. It’s quite disturbing seeing this young woman being smacked about and badly treated. I don’t know if seeing the flashback sequence is supposed to make us feel sorry for his violent behaviour but I thought it was a bit too much. What’s more strange is after Young-Gun comes to his senses and sees the bloodied face and unconscious body of Ha-Monica on the floor of his apartment he decides to have sex with her triggering her pregnancy. The movie ends on a weird note with the alien offspring which has grown into a male adult and looking like a younger version of Young-Gun in the space of a few hours somehow managing to change Young-Gun into an old man who dies. There’s no resolution of any kind and I just found it all a big cop-out.

There’s no denying that Ha Eun-jeong as Ha-Monica is a very attractive woman and the fact that she spends around half of the movie in her underwear will no doubt find many men enjoying this visual treat. Young-Gun as played by Hong Young-Guen on the other hand is a strange little character. Why he goes around the city being a vigilante crimefighter is never explained or why he has to don a silly Mario moustache on his face. It can be said that he’s a card short of a full pack in the head! There are two quite good fight sequences featuring Young-Gun kicking the crap out of 3 secret service agents who are after Ha-Monica.

Overall I found this movie to be a bit flat, unbalanced and very deceiving for people who might come into this movie thinking it’s a comedy when it becomes a nasty exercise in violence during the 2nd half. It does raise a few chuckles during the first 30 mins but that tone quickly evaporates soon after. It had the potential to become a great little comedy movie had it not been for the story changing from light to dark.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Bad Guy (2001)

Thug Han-Gi is walking along the streets of Seoul when he claps his eyes on pretty college girl Sun-hwa sitting on a bench and waiting for her boyfriend. He is obviously smitten with her and walks over and sits down beside her, not saying a word but just observing her. Sun-hwa notices that he is staring at her and moves away to another bench. Her boyfriend arrives and Sun-hwa says something about Han-Gi to him. Just as both are about to leave, Han-Gi grabs Sun-hwa and forcefully kisses her as her boyfriend grabs a steel bin and continously smashes it against Han-Gi’s back but he doesn’t flinch. After he finishes kissing her, he tries to leave but is stopped by a couple of Korean soldiers who try and make him apologise to Sun-hwa. He doesn’t so the soldiers beat the crap out of him. As a parting gesture, Sun-hwa spits on his face before leaving with her boyfriend. You’d think that Han-Gi would have learned a lesson here but he still wants Sun-hwa so he decides to follow her the next day. Sun-hwa makes a fatal mistake of tearing a page out of a book at a store and stealing a big fat wallet that’s been left behind in the store (it’s all a big setup to snare Sun-hwa). All of this is done whilst Han-Gi is watching. The guy who has lost his wallet finds out about Sun-hwa stealing his wallet and corners her in the toilet. He wants $10,000 of his money back but she can’t afford that so he roughly takes her to a loan shark to sign an agreement. She has to pay the loan back by using her body with Han-Gi forcing her into prostitution. She tries to escape but has nowhere to go. Through a two way mirror Han-Gi watches as Sun-hwa loses her virginity to a forceful client. Will Sun-hwa manage to thwart her captors and escape?

This excellent movie from South Korean director Kim Ki-Duk delves into the underworld of prostitution but also the unconventional love between a pimp and a prostitute. It’s an original story which is well told with some fascinating characters who display the good and bad side of humanity. It’s quite a dark story with some sex, voyeurism and numerous acts of violence thrown in. The transformation of a young innocent woman into a cheap $50 whore is sad and believable and the fact that she starts to enjoy her work makes it a little bit heartbreaking. Possibly some viewers might find it harder to understand why Sun-hwa would actually fall in love with the man who forced her into prostitution in the first place. It’s all about a relationship that becomes emotionally dependant between the two.

The viewer will hate Han-Gi at first but will gradually be forced to like him at some stage. Jae-hyeon Jo gives a superb performance as Han-Gi and the fact that he doesn’t have any dialogue except a couple of lines near the end makes it even better. You’ll wonder why he never speaks and then when he does speak you’ll understand why he keeps quiet. It’s through his eyes we can tell the way he’s feeling and not by any words. Seo Won is also fantastic as the college girl turned whore Sun-hwa. A very beautiful young actress who captures the downfall of her character so well.

There are some questions arising from the movie such as why is nobody looking for Sun-hwa. Surely her boyfriend, her college or even her parents would notice that she is missing yet we never see scenes of any policemen looking for her. Have they forgotten about her? It’s odd. Also why doesn’t she try harder to escape as she gets plenty of chances.

Bad Guy is a gem of a movie with many twists and turns before it ends on an unbelievable note. You can’t go wrong with any Kim Ki-Duk movie, they’re always very entertaining. This movie might not be to everyone’s taste with its subject matter as it can be a little bit uncomfortable to watch. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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A Korean man Mun and his family consisting of wife Mi-ja, elder son Tae-yang, daughter Tae-mi and younger son Tae-Poong have settled down in Bangkok, Thailand where the father runs a Taekwondo school and the mother runs a restaurant. An expensive Thai treasure valued at $30 million dollars called the Kris Of Kings (basically an ancient long dagger) has been returned to the country and already a gang of Korean thieves take the opportunity to steal it but luckily the Mun family is nearby and manage to thwart the robbery. The gang of thieves escape and the family gets to be famous thanks to their efforts. However, the leader of the gang refuses to accept that the family have humiliated him and sends some of his thugs to the Mun restaurant but again they come away defeated. Mun decides to send his kids away to an old family friend who runs a small zoo in the countryside thnking that it’ll be safer for them there. Eventually though the gang find out where they are and kidnap Tae-Poong. The only way Mun and his family can have him back is to steal the Kris and hand it over to the gang leader. Will they be successful in stealing the Kris and rescuing their young son?

Whilst there are plenty of action movies from Korea, Korean martial arts movies are few and far between. This movie tries to readdress the balance but is it any good? Well, the answer is not really. This was the first joint movie project between South Korea and Thailand. The plot is nothing new, in fact the story is wafer-thin and just an excuse for the continuous action and whilst there are a few decent martial arts fights, it just wasn’t enough to make the movie rise above anything else than plain average. There’s even a dull side plot about Mun pushing his elder son to succeed at martial arts because he failed at the Olympics 20 years previously but all Tae-yang is interested in doing in taking part in dance auditions. It didn’t help the movie one bit that terribly cheap CGI effects was used at times such as a scene in a crocodile pit. It just looks bad. The villains aren’t even that menacing, there’s a distinct lack of any drama and the comedy I thought was lame. The highlight for me is near the end in a fight inside one of Bangkok Zoo’s enclosures where Tae-yang jumps on top of empty animal cages and has to fend off the villains all the while trying to avoid several spinning metal fans dangling from the ceiling. Quite an inventive scene and very exciting but sadly that was the only scene that really got me going. Maybe I was expecting director Prachya Pinkaew to come up with the goods seeing as he gave us the excellent Ong Bak, Chocolate and Tom Yum Goong but he doesn’t come close to emulating those movies with this one even if it does feature a dancing elephant!!

The cast I didn’t think was particularly good either apart from the 2 young Koreans who played brother and sister. Na Tae-Ju as Tae-yang is probably the best actor in the movie and I enjoyed his fighting style. He’s very nimble and acrobatic. He incorporates some dancing moves in keeping in line with his character and some taekwondo to kick some ass. Kim Gyeong-suk as Tae-mi who plays his sister fares well in her fighting scenes as well. That’s to be expected as both are major Taekwondo stars in South Korea. The rest of the Korean family is a bit bland. Thai martial arts star Jeeja Yanin is horribly underused and doesn’t get the chance to really show off her skills. After all, even though the movie is set in Thailand, it is mostly a Korean production (they funded 75% of the movie) and the filmmakers obviously didn’t want Jeeja to overshadow the main stars. Those expecting her to feature in some bone crunching action like in her 2 previous movies (Chocolate/Raging Phoenix) will definitely be disappointed. I know I was!

The Kick might have it’s moments but overall I found the whole movie very underwhelming. Instantly forgettable.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Set along the ‘Bridge of No Return’ in Panmunjom, the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. During one night, 2 North Korean soldiers are fatally killed; the suspected marksman is a South Korean soldier who is found wounded in the middle of no-man’s-land. This incident has grave repercussions. Both North and South Korea regard the incident as an act of deliberate provocation. The North accuses the South of having committed a ‘terrorist attack’, while South Korea suspects the North of having attempted an ‘abduction’. Both sides appeal to the authorities of the neutral states (NNSC) for help and ask them to investigate the affair. A female Swiss army captain of Korean descent is then sent to Panmunjom to investigate the death of the 2 North Korean border soldiers.

I was very impressed with this superb anti-war Korean movie by Park Chan-wook which is billed as a murder mystery. The movie is seperated into 3 chapters – the first from the viewpoint of the investigators, the second is the backstory to what took place from the soldier’s point of view and finally the conclusion and what really happened on the fateful night of the murders. Through flashbacks and interviews, the real story gradually unfolds where nothing is as simple as it seems. Like the rest of Park Chan-wook’s movies that I’ve had the pleasure of watching – it’s directed extremely well and the pacing is just right. Whilst the movie showcases the volatile tension between North and South Korea, it also touches on the topic of friendship amidst all the hatred. I was moved by the sad story of the 4 ‘brothers’ which shows just how tragic and unnecessary war is. The performances by the 4 main leads could not be bettered and their total immersion into their roles leaves you fixated and emotionally involved with what happens to them. It portrays how different people can set aside their differences and see themselves in their purest form in that they are basically the same as each other.

JSA is a masterpiece and an incredibly powerful movie. The heart-warming story has something for everybody to ponder over. If you’ve haven’t had the opportunity to see JSA yet, put it down as a movie you must watch soon. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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The Quiet Family (1998)

The Kang family have bought a small hotel up in a remote part of the mountains in the hope that hikers in the area will take advantage of their place to stay and rest but business is very slow, in fact nobody wants to stay there. Then one day an odd man turns up and becomes their first guest in the hotel and the Kangs believe their bad luck has turned a corner until the next morning that is as when they knock on the door of his room, the man is discovered to have killed himself with his room key!! With their son a former criminal and out of jail and also worried that the police would not believe their story of what happened, the man’s body is taken to the nearby woods where he is buried. You’d think that would be it as far as unfortunate incidents go but as more guests start turning up they wind up dead the next day e.g 2 lovers poison themselves after a night of passion. As the bodies start piling up, the police appear and start asking questions. To make matters worse, the authorities are also making a highway bypass which goes through the woods where the bodies have been put. Will the Kangs manage to exhume the bodies and bury them somewhere else without being caught by anybody?

The Quiet Family is a wickedly original and constantly funny dark comedy which was later remade by Takashi Miike as ‘The Happiness Of The Katakuris’. Although both share the same plot, they are completely different movies altogether and they are as good as each other. Whilst Miike’s version is the more insane with claymation sequences, zombies and musical numbers, there is none of that in the Korean original version. I actually find it hard to decide which I like best. Both have their own pluses but anyway enough about Miike’s version and let’s concentrate on the Korean version. I found this movie had the perfect blend of horror and comedy and the cast that play the Kang family really bring their characters to life. Just one incident starts something that snowballs out of control for the entire family and the humour in the movie is watching how they attempt to cover things up and try and continue as normal. Each decision the family seems to make just makes their misfortunes grow even more! The writing is superb with a sharp tightly plotted script full of twists and turns, the cinematography is fantastic and solid performances from the cast is first rate. The cast that were picked effortlessly slip into their characters so well from moody teenage daughter Min-ah who only seems to smile when catching her favorite TV show on the box to the sex-obsessed son and the two parents that anchors the story. They are all a joy to watch. Kim Jiwoon couldn’t have asked for a better debut as a director and it’s good to know he has carried on with his good work on other renowed movies which I’ve had the pleasure of seeing.

Consistently amusing, The Quiet Family is an excellent comedy that is really worth watching. I laughed a lot watching it and so will you. It’s a Korean New Wave classic. Highly recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5

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Quick (2011)

Han is a reckless motorbike street racer who causes a massive pile up after a row with his ex-girlfriend whilst riding. Years later he is working as a motorbike courier. An unusual order comes from his office to pick up an idol singer Ah-Rom who he recognises as his ex-girlfriend! Before they are about to ride off on Han’s bike, a mysterious call comes through to him with the caller saying that the helmet that Ah-Rom is wearing has a bomb inside it. Inside a compartment in his bike are a couple of packages which Han must deliver in 30 minutes. If he fails the bomb inside the helmet will explode, if he tries to remove the helmet from Ah-Rom’s head it also explodes and he must not be more than 10 metres away from the helmet or KABOOM!! Each delivery that Han makes successfully results in a massive explosion happening and with the police on the case they think he’s a terrorist of some kind. Luckily for Han, one of his ex-rivals now a policeman doesn’t believe that he’s capable of doing such extreme things and has another theory about who’s behind the bombings. Will Han and Ah-Rom manage to complete all the deliveries from the mysterious caller or will they also fall victim to the brains behind all these despicable deeds?

I must have been in the mood for some mindless destructive entertainment as this is the 2nd movie involving things being blown up I’ve seen today! This is an action comedy and if I could describe it as something it would probably be like the Korean OTT version of Speed with the bomber dictating the terms that Han and Ah-Rom have to go through. It’s quite a silly movie that’s not to be taken seriously at all but I will say that this was quite a thrilling ride as well. The balance between action and comedy is just about right. The action scenes are brilliantly choreographed. One memorable sequence involves a lorry full of gas canisters falling off and colliding with a load of cars on a freeway setting off a chain reaction of multiple crashes and explosions. It’s all done rather well – a bit SFX heavy perhaps but it still looks good. The action moves from the road onto a train in the final 30 mins with a bomb set to explode on a bridge. The comedy is quite funny with a lot of slapstick humour coming through e.g Ah-Rom takes a shower but has to keep her helmet on! The pace is fast and furious from the opening moment and doesn’t let up at all. Unlike some actioners in which the storyline is wafer thin, this one has a intriguing plot and there’s reason why the bomber has picked on Han and it goes back to an incident which happens right at the start of the movie. The director had obviously been given a licence to thrill viewers and he does this extremely well. There are a number of edge of your seat moments to enjoy.The two leads share great chemistry and have enough charisma to carry the movie on their shoulders.

Quick is a very exciting high speed fun adventure with some spectacular motorbike sequences which leave you breathless even if at times it’s not remotely believable. Part of it’s charm is due to it’s ridiculousness. There’s even a Jackie Chan-like end credits sequence showing the injuries the cast endured during the making of some of the action scenes. I really loved this movie. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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Music professor Park Young-Sun is driving back to Seoul from an audition with his pretty female student In-Jeong who wants to become an opera singer. Going through a red light, the car is pulled over by a traffic cop. After being served a ticket, they are allowed to carry on but the professor decides to piss off the policeman even more. During a chase the music professor decides to takes a small narrow road to evade the policeman and eventually winds up in a remote area by a river. He steps out of the car to take in the view of the scenery and then proceeds to give an impromptu music lesson to In-Jeong. It turns out Young-Sun’s music lesson is just a ruse and he quickly attempts to have sex with her. In-Jeong is able to run away into the woods. Young-Sun believes that In-Jeong has nowhere to go and will soon return to his car. Then one disturbed individual turns up armed with a bloody baseball bat and then another two arrive on motorbikes with a large sack with something moving inside. Meanwhile In-Jeong comes across a local man on a motorbike and asks if she can have a lift to the nearest bus station. He takes a detour to meet his friends who are the 3 individuals taking care of the professor and his car. Will In-Jeong manage to escape the nightmare that’s about to befall her?

This is a bleak revenge movie with it’s story about bullying and the ongoing cycle of violence that comes from it. The movie could have been just the usual standard fare of 2 city people that are captured and out of their element being tortured by 4 country hicks but the director makes this just a little bit different and far more interesting as there is no villain or hero as such. It’s true that some of the characters are more vicious than others but each one of them in this movie are victims in one way or the other. It’s like the director expects the viewer to think that this movie is going to be one thing seemingly lulling you in and then unexpectedly changing things which I thought was a rather good tactic on his behalf. He seems to be taking a swipe at the Korean military as well. This isn’t a conventional revenge movie at all even though it does feature psychotic behaviour, simmering tension and even some dark humour. Although some people might call this the Korean version of Deliverance, it’s more like the French movie Calvaire (The Ordeal) although that movie is in my opinion far more sinister than this one in it’s brutality. That’s not to say that A Bloody Aria isn’t sadistic because it does get rather nasty towards the end.

You probably expect the antagonists to fall into the normal category of screen psychos but not in this movie. The viewer get to know why they’re behaving the way they do especially the best character in the entire movie – Bong-yeon. The relationships between the characters aren’t straightforward with a series of revelations coming out about what happened to some of them in the military. What makes this movie so good is you don’t know how the characters are going to react next. It makes for gripping viewing.

Overall, a very refreshing take on 2 people stuck out in the wilds. The story is very well written with great cinematography and excellent acting by the cast. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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Kyoung-su Kim is a newly transferred student to Volcano High. He’s a gifted teenager with special telekinesis abilities but these powers have done nothing for him except get him expelled from a succession of schools. This latest transfer is basically his last chance. His transfer to the school comes at a turbulent time with the vice principal who conspires with a student Jang Ryang managing to overpower the principal by a poison and framing another student in the process for the incident as he wants to acquire the Great Manuscript – an ancient document which gives it’s owner the ultimate power. However the location of the manuscript eludes even the vice principal so in order to get any information out of the school’s students as they might know its location, he recruits a 5 strong group of teachers who will stop at nothing to bring discipline even if it costs a student’s life. But they didn’t count on the resilience of Kyoung-su Kim………

Although Volcano High looks great with it’s special effects, I wasn’t that impressed overall with the movie at all. The storyline just wasn’t good enough and I felt like it was just written to show off the SFX effects. It’s nothing new either as we’ve seen these kind of effects before in The Matrix and I’ve never been a fan of wire-fu which is used a lot here. To be perfectly honest I thought the filmmakers at times were trying too hard to top The Matrix with the effects. Perhaps if this kind of movie hadn’t been done before it might have been groundbreaking. On saying that it is fairly entertaining if you like this sort of thing. You don’t get bored watching it at all as the pace is fairly brisk with some fairly decent action sequences but they could have been improved. There is some kind of comedy element in this movie which I didn’t find funny. Whatever you do, don’t try and make any sense of the plot or your brain might fry. It’s probably best to just sit back and park your brain by the door before watching it. Director Tae-gyun Kim has obviously tried his best to make this movie exactly like an anime as the story is based on a manga.

Jang Hyuk is likeable enough as the goofy Kyoung-su Kim with his silly faces and I’m not sure how the character of Yoo Chae-I is the most beautiful girl at the school as I think her best friend So Yo-seon is far better looking than her. The performances of the cast are exagerrated deliberately to enhance the anime-like feel of the movie.

If you’re going to watch this movie with the notion that this is just mindless entertainment you’re sure to get something out of it otherwise those expecting a coherent plot with some great fight sequences are likely to be found wanting. Volcano High was just average to me.

Sadako’s Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5

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Crying Fist (2005)

Kang Take-Shik is an aging boxer with his glory days behind him. Although a silver medallist in the 1990 Asian Games he’s now up to his neck in debt and has little to offer his wife and son. He resorts to becoming a human punching bag on the streets to unhappy shoppers/salarymen in order to make ends meet. Meanwhile, young hothead Yoo Sang-Hwan’s delinquent ways land him behind bars after trying to rob a person and killing him. Both men look to boxing to turn around their lives which has gone astray, aiming for the amateur title which ultimately pits them against each other.

What an amazing boxing drama movie but not in the Rocky mould that some viewers might expect. It’s not about finding fame or fortune in the ring. This is more of a story about 2 people that have reached rock bottom in their lives and by channeling their energies into something useful such as boxing they have a chance to regain their dignity as a human being and a second chance in life. Each man’s tale is shown separately and the characters only meet in the inevitable boxing match at the climax. You could argue that both stories deserve a movie of their own but director Ryoo Seung-Wan (the brother of one of the main leads) skillfully combines the two together. There’s very little boxing action in the first half of the movie as it concentrates on the woeful existence of the two men until they make the decision that they want to take back their lives.

Choi Min-Sik and Ryoo Seung-Num deliver stunning performances and their fight scenes look very realistic. The punches look hard and do connect. Usually in boxing movies we have a good and a bad guy but not in this one as we root for both characters although at first it is hard to like either men due to their behaviour. It is only on the road to redemption that we begin to warm up to them. They might not be the best boxers skillswise but it’s their determination and sheer hard graft to succeed as underdogs that makes it’s hard for the viewer to pick sides in their climatic bout. Although we want both to win their fight, we know that one of them has to lose.

I was disappointed that the director chose to go down the melodramatic route in the movie as we enter the final third with the two boxer’s families. We’ve seen these kind of boxing movie cliches before in other movies and it does make your eyes roll. Yes, there’s even a training montage sequence that reminds you too much of Rocky IV which I thought would have been avoided. Apart from those mistakes, I thought the rest of the movie was top notch. It has excellent direction, a gritty storyline, brilliant acting and high production values.

Crying Fist is a powerful movie that grabs you from the first scene and is well worth watching. You won’t be disappointed. Recommended.

Sadako’s Rating: 4 stars out of 5

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The Coast Guard (2002)

Kang Sang-byeong is a private in the South Korean coast guard army who is eager to shoot a North Korean spy. Kang is taking his task very serious and even practises military maneuvers during his free time. He has an altercation with a group of cocky locals who insult his job. One evening, he shoots and kills one of the locals who has strayed into a forbidden beach zone to have sex with his girlfriend. Kang and the girlfriend of the dead civilian both have mental breakdowns. The woman believes the members of the coast guard are her dead lover, and engages in sexual affairs with them. Though commended after the shooting, Kang finds the guilt from murdering a member of the public slowly consuming his mind and eventually is dismissed from the coast guard. However, Kang cannot let go and returns back the platoon base insisting that he is fit for duty. In the end, the army have no choice but to send for the Military Police to cart him away in handcuffs. Kang has other ideas though and escapes. He then returns to the platoon base, steals an army uniform and a rifle to kill other members of his troop. Can anybody stop Kang from wiping out the entire troop?

Did you know that South Korea’s coastline is monitored by soldiers that, after dusk, shoot anybody in sight in order to prevent the infiltration of spies? I didn’t, but I learnt that peculiar fact after watching this movie. If you like director Kim Ki-Duk’s movies, you’ll love this one as well. This is a tight, riveting drama about the ugly underbelly of a society in perpetual preparation for war and of 2 people slowly losing their grip on reality after an unfortunate event. That event changes Private Kang’s life, and that of those around him, showing us how dangerous and far-reaching an act of violence can be. I’m not sure if the director dislikes his country’s military or not but in this movie he makes them look like a complete bunch of idiots and as such many people might say that this is a scathing commentary on South Korea’s military state. For example the coastguard soldiers let Kang who has been dismissed back inside their base time and time again. Why does it take so long for him to be arrested? Misguided loyalty to a former colleague perhaps? A minor complaint is there’s hardly any character development in this movie – we don’t get to know anything about Kang’s background and his actions before the shooting are simply strange to the viewer.

Kim Ki-Duk has directed another great movie here which delivers disharmony through a bloody accident at the South Korean seaside. He knows how to tell a story, no more needs to be said in that respect, and especially if said story is to be laced in melancholy and a slight feeling of bleakness. The cinematography is intriguing, but what truly makes this movie special is how he frames each scene. Kim Ki Duk proves, once more, why he is one of the top directors in the world. Creativity, originality and audacious about a controversial issue that has to do with both Koreas.

Sadako’s Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5

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