Monday, February 10, 2014

Review: Poongsan (2011)

Poongsan (Review)
Juhn Jai-hong/Yoon Kye-sang/2011
Where To Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...an effective tale of romance..."

Poongsan (Yoon Kye-sang), named after brand of cigarettes he smokes, is a messengers who crosses the DMZ to deliver messages and heirlooms for separated families. One day, Poongsan is hired by South Korean agents to retrieve In-ok (Kim Gyu-ri), the lover of a North Korean defector...

Poongsan continues to follow the titular character as he is brought into a web of lies and betrayal. After saving In-ok, they begin to share feelings for each other, despite a lack of spoken word from Poongsan – he is a silent protagonist. Regardless, the love he feels forces him to work for both the South and North Koreans, who take advantage of him to reach their own goals. A bit slow on the pace, Poongsan eventually reaches a very clever climax and a moving ending.

Poongsan works as an effective tale of romance, as well as a commentary on the state of affairs between North and South Korea. I enjoyed the story from beginning to end. The protagonist does not speak, but the relationship between Poongsan and In-ok feels authentic and effective. There are some great action sequences, but this is not an action film. The commentary is a bit blatant, some subtly would've been appreciated, but at least it's meaningful. Regardless, I really enjoyed the climax of the film, it is tense, clever, and symbolic. There is some disturbing torture, but I think it's tasteful, for lack of a better term, enough to classify as an authenticity aid.

Yoon Kye-sang is great as the lead – without a spoken word, Kye-sang emotes greatly with his facial and eye expressions, as well as some authentic grunts and powerful shouts. Kim Gyu-ri has less screen time, but she also delivers a great performance – she's also quite beautiful. The film has a distinct, dark style, and the music is perfect for the vibe of the film, although it hardly plays. The story is written by the fantastic Kim Ki-duk, who pens a fantastic story, albeit a bit more blatant than his usual. Juhn Jai-hong does a great job directing, although there is some filler.

Overall, Poongsan is a great film. It has great romance, action, and some comedy; at the same time, Poongsan is meaningful, symbolic, and powerful film; a multilayered film worth watching again and again. It lacks some impact and has some flaws, though. Definitely worth watching for fans of Kim Ki-duk.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, including scenes of graphic torture, and some partial nudity.

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