Friday, August 8, 2014

Review: Once Upon A Time In Seoul (2008)

Once Upon A Time in Seoul (Review)
Bae Hyeong-jun/Lee Wan, Song Chang-eui/2008
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"....the very cliché subplot is a problem..."

Shortly after the Korean War, friends Jong-du (Lee Wan) and Tae-ho (Song Chang-eui) battle for survival in war-torn Seoul...

Once Upon A Time in Seoul starts off very promising showing Jong-du and Tae-ho's poor living conditions, as well as their respective character and relationship. Jong-du is the muscle, and Tae-ho is the brains; although they often disagree, they both share a close relationship. They aspire for the riches and have plans to do so. But, these plans conflict with the local gangsters, and their relationship is strained by a mutual love interest who joins their group. Although it is very predictable, Once Upon A Time in Seoul leads to a decent ending.

Once Upon A Time in Seoul has a great story, especially during the first act, but flawed execution. My biggest gripe with the film was the cliché love triangle story; it is exactly what you expect it to be, and it actually makes the rest of the story much more predictable. So, when this love triangle kicks off, you'll begin treading familiar territory -- the story becomes riddled with clichés. Despite this flaw, I did find myself engaged with the plot. Yeah, I knew where it was headed from the beginning, but I was also interested. Maybe it was the characters or the unique action -- I mean, how many times do you see people using whips as weapons in film -- but I enjoyed it.

The acting was good. It is melodramatic at times, but it wasn't overwhelming. Lee Wan and Song Chang-eui share great chemistry, but don't have strong screen presence. I did like the cinematography; I especially enjoyed the set design and costume, no matter how simple the latter. The music was also good. I watched this on Amazon Prime Instant video, and the English subtitles were fine. Director Bae Hyeong-jun was able to keep me engaged; the romance subplot is very cliché, but he mostly overcomes the issue, at least enough to deliver a tolerable film.

Overall, Once Upon A Time In Seoul is a good film. I liked the story and the main plot, but the very cliché subplot is a problem -- you've seen this love triangle before, and I'm afraid it won't be the last time we see it. Otherwise, the film is also technically well-made, and a treat for those that like to immerse themselves great settings.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood.

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