Friday, May 6, 2016

Review: Assassination (2015)

Assassination (Review)
Choi Dong-hoon/Jun Ji-hyun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...a very interesting and entertaining action film."

During the 1930s, a Korean independence group plots the assassination of a Japanese general and a Korean businessman, but the plot is complicated when a spy reports their activities...

Assassination is a bit complicated. The film begins in 1911 where Yeom Seok-jin (Lee Jung-jae) tries to assassinate a Japanese general and a pro-Japanese businessman, Kang In-guk. He fails and he's captured. Fast forward to the 1930s: Yeom Seok-jin is now the captain of an independence group. He's once again recruited to kill the same Japanese general and Korean businessman. This time, he is asked to enlist the help of Chu, Hwang, and Ahn Ok-yun (Jun Ji-hyun). From there, the film tosses a few twists and turns your way. A few of these twists felt forced and unnecessary, some rolled smoothly with the rest of the film. I don't want to spoil anything else, but let's just say a Korean hitman named "Hawaii Pistols" (Ha Jung-woo) also gets caught in this complex plot. The film leads to a decent ending.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Review: Fighter in the Wind (2004)

Fighter in the Wind (Review)
Yang Yun-ho/Yang Dong-geun/2004
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"If you love stories of triumph and the philosophy of martial arts, I think you'll enjoy this one."

The story of Choi Bae-dal (Yang Dong-geun), who traveled to Japan during World War 2 to become a fighter pilot but found himself fighting for justice and honor instead.

Fighter in the Wind is a fictionalized account of karateka Masutatsu Oyama's life. The film begins with Bae-dal traveling to Japan to become a fighter pilot. To his dismay, not all was what it seemed and he finds himself imprisoned by the end of World War 2. While their base is being bombed, Bae-dal is freed by Kato (Masaya Kato), a high-ranking soldier of the Japanese army – not out of the kindness of his heart, but because he doesn't want to taint the Japanese blood with a Korean's blood. In a confrontation with Kato, Bae-dal is left injured and humiliated. Most of the film takes place in post-war Japan, though, where, according to the film, most Japanese men were part of the Yakuza or purely evil while all US soldiers were corrupt rapists. Anyway, Bae-dal continues to run into trouble, so he dedicates his life to becoming the greatest fighter in order to protect what he cares about. Toss in a training montage, a few fights, some conflict between fighting and love, then you've got yourself the rest of the movie. The last fight was great. The actual ending was... interesting, to say the least.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Review: Bad Guy (2001)

Bad Guy (Review)
Kim Ki-duk/Cho Jae-hyun/2001
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...a remarkably twisted tale of love that should not be missed by any fan of Kim Ki-duk."

After being publicly humiliated by a young woman, Han-gi (Cho Jae-hyun), a silent gangster, orchestras a plot to trap Sun-hwa (Seo Won) in a world of prostitution...

On the surface, Bad Guy is a fairly simple film. The narrative follow Han-gi, a gangster who does not speak. One day, Han-gi finds himself attracted to Sun-hwa, a young college student. He awkwardly sits next to her, but she scoffs at his attempt. Before she can depart with her boyfriend, Han-gi steals a kiss, which leads to a public beating – but, that's not enough. Sun-hwa also demands an apology and, when she does doesn't get it, she insults him and spits in his face. So, Han-gi begins his plot for vengeance – in a sense. He baits Sun-hwa into stealing, which spirals her into a criminal underworld. Without spoiling much more, Sun-hwa becomes a prostitue to pay off her debt – and Han-gi secretly watches her from a two-way mirror. It's a chilling tale of love that leads to a thought-provoking ending.

Friday, April 15, 2016

Review: The Show Must Go On (2007)

The Show Must Go On (Review)
Han Jae-rim/Song Kang-ho/2007
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"...the character-driven crime drama is dappled with some much-appreciated humor."

In-gu (Song Kang-ho) is a gangster with dreams of living peacefully with his family in a nice home. To his utter dismay, he finds escaping the gangster life is more difficult than he thought...

The Show Must Go On is a basic crime drama with a pinch of humor. The film is essentially a character study of In-gu. The story follows In-gu as he tries to break his criminal ties and live a legitimate life. He has a misbehaved daughter and a disappointed wife, both of which he tries to please. Unfortunately, he finds himself with no luck. His family issues begin to take a toll on his work, distorting his concentration and whatnot, and his boss' younger brother, Chairman Noh (Choi Il-hwa), actively plots against him over territory issues. The film leads to a poignant yet moderately humorous ending. I did feel the events leading up to said ending were a bit dragged out, though.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Review: Memories of the Sword (2015)

Memories of the Sword (Review)
Park Heung-shik/Lee Byung-hun/2015
Where to Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"The presentation is gorgeous, the action was exhilarating, and the narrative was effective."

During the Goryeo era in Korea, three swords are bound by vengeance, betrayal, and love...

Memories of the Sword is a wuxia-style Korean drama-action film. The story often jumps between past and present, but it's fortunately not confusing. (Some characters use two names in the film, but I'll stick to only one in order to avoid confusion during this review. It's not confusing in the film, though.) So, Hong-ee (Kim Go-eun) is a young orphan raised by master swordsman Seol-rang (Jeon Do-yeon). Seol-rang raises Hong-ee like one of her own, training the young woman to murder the people that killed her parents. Seol-rang trains her to defeat Deok-gi (Lee Byung-hung), a powerful general rising through the ranks in the Goryeo Dynasty. To Hong-ee's dismay, she'll also have to defeat Seol-rang, who was also responsible for her parents' deaths. There are a few cliche stops in this narrative, but there are also some interesting revelations. Ultimately, it leads to a tragically poignant ending — I liked it.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Review: Rough Play (2013)

Rough Play (Review)
Shin Yeon-shick/Lee Joon/2013
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...it just doesn't feel like it has much to offer."

Oh Young (Lee Joon), a nameless actor, begins to rise after being discovered for his gutsy performances, but he soon finds fame comes with a price...

Rough Play is a character-study. I say that before I get deeper into the plot because it really doesn't have much; it doesn't have this huge dilemma or antagonist, it only has a character arc. The film follows Oh Young, a young actor hoping to make it big. He often breaks away from the script as he becomes his character. His style catches the eye of a manager looking for a comeback. In turn, Oh Young begins to rise. He becomes an overnight sensation, mingling with other actors and occasionally dabbling in the darker side of fame. Of course, as is common in film, with every rise, there must be a tumble. That's really all I can say about the plot. It's not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t leave much of an impression. The ending was interesting, but it doesn't leave an impact.