Flying kites in Rio, breaking hearts in Korea, patching things up in Chinatown, and learning to pray all over the world. An eclectic mix for sure kicks off a (hopefully) periodic series of short reviews for those pressed for time.
Ten years after his flamboyant debut, director Joon-Hwan Jang steps out with a much tighter and straightforward crime saga. While it isn’t Save the Green Planet II, Hwayi stacks up well against other Korean vengeance thrillers. In a genre crowded with first rate films over the past decade, Hwayi shows that there can always be room for another.
Jung-woo Ha and Dong-won Kang shine in this period-action film about a clash of two men cast aside by Joeseon society. Director Jong-bin Yoon pulls Kundo together from a mix of styles, heavy on the Spaghetti western, but true to contempory Korean martial arts action. Overall, the film stays light and fun, but the slow exposition over the 137 minute run time keeps this good film from greatness.
Action-drama-action-drama-action-drama. Given the choice of following a policeman on his last days before a sex-change operation or mind numbing mayhem, Man on High Heels offers too much tragic-action for my taste. Seung-won Cha is great playing the lead with as little irony as possible. It is overall a much more humane treatment of the transgender role than expected. But after awhile the burden everyone carries is too much, and the action too cruel for the movie to elicit more from me than a blank stare and a shoulder shrug.
Palace intrigue and bureaucratic reform in 15th Century Korea are deftly handled in The Face Reader. Kang-ho Song as always is fun to watch as the titular character, who winds his way from poverty and disgrace to the heights of power and back again. Director Jae-rim Han keeps the story simple enough for non-Korean audiences to follow this Korean period drama, which makes it a good introduction to the genre.
The comic book origins of the story are never more apparent than in the clashing final confrontation scenes of Secretly, Greatly, Chul-soo Jang’s action-comedy-drama about North Korean super spies. The different cinematic requirements of drama and action are kept in check until the final 20 minutes, when they stumble over each other, making for a relatively disappointing finish to an otherwise entertaining film.