Tag Archives: Song Kang-ho

The Chaser: Korea Keeps Kickin’ It

Should I ever be surprised now when Korea delivers with another amazingly dark and heart pumping thriller movie? I think at this point I just accept that those Krazy Koreans know just how to do it right. Chan Wook-Park and the Revenge Trilogy, I Saw The Devil, and now The Chaser. I hadn’t heard much about this one, but now I will actively be on the lookout for Na Hong-jin after this one. In his debut film, we are

A pimp pushed to the edge to use his strong hand.

introduced to a sadistic killer and a former cop turned pimp and his desire to get back his employees. With a seedy feeling underneath the whole thing, this movie explores the shortcomings of the justice system in catching what’s right in front of them.

As I said before, Eom Joong-ho (Kim Yoon-seok) is an ex-cop turned more lucrative business owner of a ladies of the night agency. He has recently been sending his ladies to the same man and they don’t seem to be coming back to him. This troubles him (he is losing money, after all) and he starts actively seeking out this man stealing his livelihood. What he discovers is something far worse. Based on an actual serial killer in Seoul, Ha Jung-woo plays Je Yeong-hee, a young and aspiring serial killer being looked for for years. This game of cat and mouse just got more dangerous.

The deranged serial killer. Chilling.

And what I liked about it were the stakes. Yeong-hee admits to the murders and the police find he’s a serial killer they’ve been looking for for a while. Eom Jonng-ho brings him in (well, he beats him in) and demands they arrest him and find his women. But there is a justice dilemma that favors Yeong-hee. There’s no evidence, and he was beaten severely, against fair and humane punishment laws. He was treated poorly and, without a warrant, they can’t hold him for very long. With a ridiculous police scramble for evidence, Eom Jonng-ho uses his police skills from way back when to find the conviction.

That’s a pretty good hog-tie right there.

This movie is very twisted in the same way that it is a bit more refined and elegant. There’s not too many bloody dismemberment scenes or gory, blood spurting elements to it. It’s very brutal with the beatings and depravity of it, but it holds back on the reigns when it comes to showing things. It is more of a Streets of Seoul type of film than having to do with a slasher film. The police and “ex-police” call the shots and do all they can to uphold justice. It was an interesting change of pace.

The justice beatdown dance.

A lot of the Korean actors in this film I wasn’t familiar with from other films. The daughter, Eun-ji was from Sympathy for Lady Vengeance, but that was about all I recognized. It was nice to see new faces that I can start to follow like I do with Choi Min-sik, Lee Byung-hun, and Song Kang-ho. Those guys are really legitimate good thriller/action actors, and I’m glad their work is recognized, even over here.

What I don’t appreciate is the fact that U.S. movie makers in Hollywood think it’s cool to remake these movies in a more American way. They’re planning to remake The Chaser with Leo DiCaprio as the leading man. Martin Scorsese in the the talks for directing. It’s gonna be an Infernal Affairs/ The Departed situation all over again. The original Asian make was just fine, why go and jumble it up with a poor remake that attempts to improve on the one before? Is it that

He has a very Choi Min-sik feel to him in this film. Think Oldboy.

Americans don’t wanna watch Asians and read subtitles or something. Come off it then…

But I loved this movie. It’s dark with all the right amounts of thriller/gory/horror/action/police work that you want in a psychological thriller like this. There’s some powerful acting and a chilling, “you gotta hate me” performance from Ha Jung-woo playing the serial killer. It has a good I Saw the Devil feel to it as well. Keep it coming, Korea, you gotta love all these dark Asian films. 8.9 out of 10.

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Sympathy for Lady Vengeance: Death Be a Lady…

In a turn of events of Park Chan-wook’s series, it’s the lady’s turn to be the one seeking vengeance. In this straightforward, lunge at the throat revenge story, Park Chan-wook ends his series. This one is a bit more delicate and see-through than the other movies, but it leaves the series with a bit of a twist and bang.

Lee Geum-ja (Lee Young Ae) is a recently released child murderer who smothered a kidnap victim with a pillow to stifle his cries. After confessing, she went to jail for 13 years, performing good deeds and being seen as a saint in jail. She helped out her

Stone. Cold. Fox.

fellow cellmate and seems to have done a complete 180 on being released from jail. She’s cold. She’s calculated. And she’s going after the real killer who framed her. Classic revenge story? You got it.

I was a bit surprised this one was a bit more straightforward with who was seeking revenge against who. Lee Geum-ja is going after Mr. Baek (Choi Min-sik), that classical actor and wonderful dramatic presence.

I loved this tatoo.

He has less of a role in this movie, but Lee Young Ae makes up for that with a femme fatale performance that would make any man shiver his timbers. What I really liked in this movie is the way that Park Chan-wook wanted the revenge scene (as Lee Geum-ja wanted it) was to be poetic and beautiful at the same time it would be cathartic and an aggressional release.

The cinematography and locations are once again stunning. Snow scenes, an abandoned school and the ironical revenge point, and a few strangely surreal daydreams and flashbacks that occur that I quite liked. I liked the initial setup on Lee Geum-ja in jail. She’s meeting all

Really stunning color scheme right there.

these hardened women criminals and they always label them by name and years served. Then somehow there’s someone who Lee Geum-ja saves them and uses that later on in the film. I enjoyed the whole “Ocean’s 11 feel” for the small part of the film.

The end scene is why you watch this film. You feel for the whole situation and you know that it’s very real human response that is dished out there (no spoilers!). It’s harsh and brutal and it comes from a place most of us dream about but are never given the chance to. You’ll just have to see for yourself…

This is that weird thing I was talking about…

What more is there to say about this? Lee Young Ae is a cold beauty and really sells the part. The movie has this whole quirky, otherwordly feel to it where street justice is dealt out in a modern day world. I just think those South Koreans really know how to make a spectacular set of films. And a cameo by Song Kang-ho and Yu Ji-tae! Get some of this Lady Vengeance. 8.3 out of 10.


Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance

I feel that deep down, if anyone has ever been wronged or hurt in some way by another, they seek revenge in some form on that person. So, you could say, that revenge is a very human thing to pursue and wish to deal out. I would say that’s why these films have been so successful (although box offices mighy say pshaw). After having seen Oldboy in a film class a few years ago, I knew I had to see more of Park Chan-wook’s films. He has a great sense of story and emotion coupled with a visual style you don’t often see in action films.

So I started off Park Chan-wook’s Revenge series at its logical point, Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance. This story follows a deaf mute man named Ryu (Shin Ha-kyun) who is down on his luck. His sister (Lim Ji-eun) has kidney failure and is in dire need of a new one. Ryu is fired from his job at the factory and now seeks a new way in which to raise the

This was an interesting scene involving a mirror.

money. In finding a black market organ gang, Ryu is swindled and left without a kidney himself. With no other way to raise the money after not being a suitable donor himself, Ryu must turn to desperate measures with his anarchist girlfriend, Cha Yeong-mi (Bae Doona).

Stunning visuals.

What’s most interesting about this movie is the way that revenge and its plot in the film shifts from character to character. You think it’s all about Ryu and seeking revenge against the organ dealers (and to a point, it is). But it turns into something bigger when Ryu’s ex-boss gets involved. What is intriguing about this movie is that everyone has a motive, and usually for good reason. Ryu wants to save his sister and others want to correct past wrongs (don’t wanna spoil the movie). So there’s no definitive bad and good character, and this is even apparent in Oldboy. (Haven’t watched Lady Vengeance yet, we’ll cross that bridge soon.)

Another thing that leaps out at you in this film is an insanely new way of dictating tempo and focus with camera angles and amount of time spent on one shot. Kim Byung-il and the director, Park Chan-wook must have collaborated together to get such a unique style of story telling through showing. In dealing with a deaf mute character, sound was at times taken for granted. At others, sound played an important part, more

Song Kang-ho is one legitimate actor.

importantly what couldn’t be heard. The story fluctuates in such a way that plot mixes with circumstances, and chance happenings lead to development.

More about the visual style. Amazing work with angles you wouldn’t think of. This movie can take a simple handshake shot to a new extreme. It leaves on things you wouldn’t think of as the events unfold from a single angle (one take shots are hard to do…) and tilts the cameras to gain new perspectives. Light and dark shows its place when the characters walk up an abandoned parking structure in an almost comical way. I think the creators of this film really took a brand of their own outlandishly dark comedy and injected it into their film with just visual aspects.

Also touching.

And another important part of this movie. Song Kang-ho who plays Park Dong-jin, Ryu’s ex-boss. When he gets roped into this story, things start happening. It’s not such a quirky action film anymore. The emotions come out and you see the true face of vengeance. Song Kang-ho is an incredible actor, especially by American Cinema actors. You don’t feel like he’s fooling you with his emotions and actions on camera. You feel like you’re actually feeling for another human being. He didn’t have any classical acting training before he started getting involved with acting, but he has done such a wide range of characters that it shows he has depth. A comedic, bumbling, good hearted Dad in The Host. A bloodthirsty vampire priest that I’d like to see in Park Chan-wook’s other film, Thirst. A comedic and tormented thief in The Good, The Bad, and the Weird. And he’s won awards for his work. Get a load of that.

You bring together excellent acting (and I’m talking to the whole cast about this), stunning visuals, and a bit of violence

Who is seeking vengeance on who?

and revenge, and you have an American A+ caliber action film. What’s different though? This one has heart and emotions that put it at drama level. And so far, with having watched this and Oldboy, Park Chan-wook has hit all the good points on the head. He even puts a bit of violence and gore in there for me too. Violence and a great foreign action film? I think this was made for me. 9.3 out of 10.