Failan (2001)

I’m not gonna lie, South Korean films are fast becoming my favorite. I just feel like they tend to take me as an audience to places I’d wanna go, they tell stories with more creativity, flair, and a sort of real-world “edginess” that I have yet to find in Chinese or Japanese films. In my latest blog project, I’ve only reviewed about 20-25 films (watched about 30), and when I choose a film, I always choose it without any knowledge of the people who worked on it. The fact that the majority of them have been South Korean films is coincidence. I don’t think it’s a coincidence that South Korean films are the ones I seem to remember the most. If your considering checking out an asian film on Netflix, let me be the first to recommend a South Korean film. The genre doesn’t necessarily matter either. South Korean filmmakers have a knack for mixing different types of tones and emotions together. Case in point: Failan. Well actually, it’s not a great example, but it does carry some elements of different genres within. Alright, now for some information about the director (pictured above).

(For all who don’t know, I blog what’s on my mind, and don’t clean up. That’s why you’ll sometimes read me stating an opinion and take it back in the same sentence. It’s just me thinking out loud.)

So Close and yet so far…

Hae-sung Song first made his mark as a writer for the film, Born to Kill, back in 1996. His directorial debut, Calla (1999) was also the second project he served as a writer on. Mr. Song would also write The Butcher, the Chef, and the Swordsman, in 2001; as his second feature-length film. As of this post, Song went on to direct three more films; Rikidozan (2004), Maundy Thursday (2006), A Better Tomorrow (2010). However he hasn’t written for any of his three most recent films. Hae-sung Song’s directing style is all things subtle. Visually there aren’t too many things to write back home about. However, the way Song is able to get the performances out of Choi Min-sik and Cecilia Cheung is something that really makes the movie special. I truly believe these two stars make the whole picture, not just because they do shine pretty brightly; but out of necessity. The film is about a lowly gangster (Choi Min-sik) who agrees to take the fall for his boss (also a childhood friend) who “rage” kills another thug outside in the rain. The movie really gets interesting when the ganster is registered as the legal husband of a chinese immigrant (Cecilia Cheung), whose goals seem to be more pure hearted and wholesome. The catch is that the two never truly get to see each other, muchless develop a working relationship in the traditional sense. However, they both began to dream about one another, and the sad, tragic ironies ring loud and true. The lowly ganster, who really cared for nothing in this world, had one friend, and no goals; falls in love (from afar) with his legal wife. As I said, tragedy befalls these two distant lovers, and I found myself caring deeply for the two people more than I expected too (especially for the lowly, gangster). This subtle, quiet film slides from beginning to middle with a sort of routine ease. Once we find out about the slow, poison like tragedy that has befallen one of the characters in the movie, I really started to dread the ending. When I say dread, I mean that in a good way. Like you know the ending will be bittersweet. See this movie for that reason. The two stars are also a great reason to see this. Especially Choi Min-sik, who I had the pleasure of seeing in other, more twisted films Oldboy and I Saw The Devil.

 

 

I Saw The Devil (2010)

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If you’re going to be gory, go all out. Right?

Words: Desmond Childs

The visual scare we get from seeing the bodily fluids, organs, skin, and bones of disembolwed characters in movies is a different type of scared. At least it is for me. This is precisely the reason, torture films are not my cup of tea. Not because their scary and I lose sleep at night; but because I’m too grossed out to continue on watching. However, I know alot of people who enjoy gore-flicks simply for the art of gore i.e. the makeup used in these types of movies. I recently developed a respect for makeup artists after watching the documentary (Starz Inside)Fantastic Flesh: The Art of Make-Up EFX. It’s truly amazing how long some actors and actresses have to sit and wait for make-up to be applied. Sometimes actors in make-up spend more time putting on their character make-up than they do filming for the day.The art of make-up plays a pretty big role in I Saw The Devil. We have a movie about a man seeking revenge through torturing the man who brutally murdered his wife.

Directed By:

Kim Ji-woon

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Mr. Kim is a writer-director whose had the opportunity to write and direct most of the films he’s been involved in. He’s also known around Korean film buffs as the director that can do any kind of film, and he’s had success in a number of different genres. With a career spanning back 13 years, Kim’s projects have been as follows: The Quiet Family (1998), The Foul King and Coming Out (both 2000), Three (2002)(in which he directs a portion fo the film), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), and The Good, The Bad, and The Weird (2008). In fact, I Saw The Devil is the only film to-date that Mr. Kim had not written.

In I Saw The Devil, Mr. Kim and the crew are keen on letting the scene “sit and stew” for a few seconds. Whenever the tough, gritty scenes occured the audience usually got a long shot, with cinematographer Lee Mo-gae trying to fit as much as he could on screen.  The fight scenes were more tight, close up on the actors putting the audience firmly in the passenger seat. And there was plenty of in your face, bloody action to complement the camera being in so tight. One particular scene that takes place in a cab is easily one of the more violent scenes I’ve had the (pleasure?) of seeing in a film for quite some time.

Revenge vs. Entertainment

In this movie, we have two guys destined to torture one another until one or the other finally gets the upper hand and murders the other. Did that make sense? Let me try this way:

In order to avenge the death of his girlfriend/fiance(?), a government agent tracks, catches, tortures, and sets free the man responsible for killing his girlfriend. And yes, the movie’s story is nearly written around the villian of the film; which probably made the movie more intriguing in hindsight. In Kyung-chul we have our villian: a sadistic, merciless, serial killer who takes pleasure from chopping up the bodies of his victims. Even after the death of government agent Soo-hyun’s girlfriend, we get to see Kyung-chul murder like 7 more people while also facing off against Soo-hyun. The plot was a little bizarre in this way, where Kyung-chul would lure a victim somewhere kill them or be in the process of killing them; but he’s stopped buy Soo-hyun. Soo-hyun usually tortures him instead and dumps his unconscious body around various parts of the town.

The film becomes incredibly strange when we see Soo-hyun (the agent) torture Kyung-chul then leave him money. It’s at this point where their little battle becomes some sort of gross, game of h-o-r-s-e. The person able to torture a victim the worst and survive the ordeal wins, with the killer torturing innocenet bystanders, and the agent torturing the killer. Very strange indeed. The reason this film is going to make an impression, is because of the lack of emotion throughout. Killing and torture are handled so casually by these two characters that the audience can’t help but feel uneasy whenever either one is on screen. This weird, casually tone also nearly offsets the pay-off of the film. Don’t get me wrong, there is a proper conclusion, but there is definitively not a winner.

While it’s not a masterpiece by any stretch of the imagination, I Saw A Devil does do a decent job asking and showing the answer to one question: How far are you willing to go to settle the score?

I Saw The Devil is now playing on “Instant Watch” on netflix.com

The Man From Nowhere (2010)

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“…because I’m her next door neighbor. I’m also quite bored, and bitter over the death of my fiance.”

Words: Desmond Childs

Cha Tae-Sik is a quiet, unassuming pawn shop owner; operating out of a cluttered workspace within a small neighborhood. And it’s these small, unassuming truths are exatcly the reason he appears so suspicious. Not suspicious in a “I’m actually a mass-murderer” way, but there appears to be more to the guy that meets the eye. Not to mention that he’s a bit of a recluse, preferring to keep to himself. In fact, only a neighbor’s daughter is nice enough to even conversate with Tae-Sik. While this one little social contact seems insignificant enough, Tae-Sik himself apparently values the “friendship” of this little girl well enough to embark on the rescue mission that serves as this films primary plot. I was very impressed with this movie, and have officially accepted it as the proper replacement for the entertainment value “I Saw The Devil” gruesomely robbed from me. Both rescue missions and quests for revenge require high stakes. I Saw The Devil was a revenge film in which the “protagonist” (outside of losing his finance) never really had to risk anything as opposed to his nemesis in the film. In this movie here, Tae-Sik is risking his life for the friendship he shares with this kid. I know that sounds pretty paper thin to bet a life on, but as I mentioned earlier Tae-Sik is a recluse and those types are always a little weird. Take Bruce Wayne for example, that guy leaps around pretending to be a winged mammal.

Directed By:

Jeong-Beom Lee

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Synopsis and Analysis: “BUT WHAT ABOUT THE CHILDREN!?”

Mr. Lee has yet to make a significant impact in the moviemaking industry although some have marked The Man From Nowhere as being his big breakthrough. Prior to his work on this film, Lee’s only other project was Cruel Winter Blues in which he wrote and directed. Debuting with Cruel Winter Blues and following up with a feature such as The Man From Nowhere, this writer-director has already showcased some skill.Although I have yet to see his debut film, the visual flair The Man From Nowhere carried throughout was a very entertaining experience. Many filmmakers strive to be able to tell an engrossing story to go along with all the blood and guts. Mr. Lee’s The Man From Nowhere helped the guy flex some movie making muscle. Lee’s already got a formula to build on, an engrossing, viceral experience is the craft he’s looking to master then perfect.

As I mentioned earlier, this movie is about a pawn shop owner named Cha Tae-Sik. The story kicks off when his next door neighbor, who is apparently a drug smuggler (Hyo-Jeong) who has double crossed the origanization she worked in. Now, to avoid losing her expensive product, see secretly hides the narcotics in Tae-Sik’s pawn shop. The organization captures both Hyo-Jeong and her daughter (So-mi) after learning that the product is with Tae-Sik. Then the organization sends henchmen to rough up and explain the reason for the kidnappings to Tae-Sik. However, Tae-Sik, mysterious past and all, beats the hell out of them and sends them running. He than embarks on an adventure to rescue the two from the organization. A lot of questions as to Tae-Sik’s past are answered throughout the film, such as the terrible tragedy he suffered many years earlier. There’s even a shocking little sub-plot involving serious child-labor law violations. And I mean serious violations. The Man From Nowhere succeeds in a number of aspects but, specifically shines in developing it’s tragic hero in a way I couldn’t help but compare to Robert Ludlum‘s The Bourne Identity. This film’s stylized action scenes also help justify that comparison with Tae-Sik’s fighting style being nearly indistinguishable. Awesome film though.

The Man From Nowhere can be found on Netflix‘s “Instant Watch” feature. Check out the trailer below:

Retribution/I Saw The Devil #8

Show Outline:

Running Time: 1hr. 2min.

  • Retribution (review)
  • Box Office Breakdown
  • I Saw The Devil
  • Otakast Radio News Update

also…

3 songs

Fullmetal Alchemist Movie 2 – Good Luck, My Way

Hanasaku Iroha – Haru no Mukou

Katanagatari – Yuki no Onna

 

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UP NEXT: Retribution/I Saw The Devil

Alright, so I decided this next episode will not include a “Cinema Classics” review. I’m actually not sure which movie will replace Hidden Fortress in the lineup. More than likely I will skip over to Ugetsu, which was the next film in the marathon until I can find a replacement. In the mean time, get ready for my double thriller episode. You’ve got revenge and torture in I Saw The Devil. Then we get lonely, vengeful, and supernatural in Retribution. Do your homework, and be ready for review! 

Retribution