Hits from 2014-15
2015. Directed by Kwak Kyung-taek , starring Kim Yun-seok, Yoo Hae-jin , 108 mins.
Kwak’s magnificent thriller recreates a real-life Busan kidnapping case from 1978, and opens with a whirlwind montage of student protests, news clips and pop-culture imagery to evoke time under military government – and the police corruption that was rampant. Eun-joo, young daughter of a wealthy magnate, is kidnapped on her way home from school. At first, her desperate parents hear nothing; they request that the weary, seen-it-all cop Gil-yong (Kim Yun-seok) be assigned to the case and, to Gil-yong’s annoyance, also bring in the psychic Joong-san (Yoo Hae-jin) to help. The kidnapper finally does make contact, but several attempts to pay him a ransom hit brick walls. 33 days after Eun-joo’s disappearance, matters come to a head up north in Seoul, where Gil-yong finds his efforts sabotaged by rival sections of the force. Can Joong-san’s intuitions help? often has the feel of a drama-doc and is nothing like , but it uses a police investigation as a key to important truths about Korean society in much the way that Bong Joon Ho’s film did. Kwak Kyung-taek has always been at his best when digging into Busan histories, and this is likely his most resonant work yet. And the suspense is killing.
By Tony Rayns
2015. Directed by Oh Seung-uk , starring Jeon Do-yeon, Kim Nam-gil , 118 mins.
A crime drama about emotional evisceration. Criminal enforcer Joon-gil (Park Sung-woong) has murdered a man the audience never meets. Motivation is extrapolated: the victim was threatening his lover, Hye-kyung (Jeon Do-yeon). Now hunted by his former employer, a shady influential corporation, which has the ear of the corrupter elements of the police force, the authorities also want him. Detective Jae-gon (Kim Nam-gil) is assigned. Not bribable, but also with a reputation for going beyond the strict rule of law, Jae-gon tracks down Joon-gil. The first of two action sequences unfurls excitingly. Cop fear of the suspect means an unusual attempt at subduing, which goes wrong and Joon-gil escapes. The rest of the runtime is Jae-gon undercover seeking to rectify his mistake. The lone wolf pursuit of the target is not concerned with conventional thriller dynamics here, instead is more interested in the moral bankruptcy of society and no one we meet in the film is without tarnish.
By Hemanth Kissoon
2015. Directed by Lee Byeong-heon , starring Kim Woo-bin, Lee Jun-ho, Kang Ha-neul , 115 mins.
Chi-ho (Kim Woo-bin), Dong-woo (Lee Joon-ho) and Gyeong-jae (Kang Ha-neul) have been friends since their high school days, when their attraction to the same girl brought them together. Chi-ho is obsessed with chasing women even though he already has a girlfriend, So-min (Jung So-min); Dong-woo is a talented comic artist but family money pressures force him into dead-end, part-time jobs; and Gyeong-jae is a freshman in college who soon falls in love with Jin-joo (Min Hyo-rin), a student who is also an expert in finance. Now that they have all reached the age of twenty, the realisation that the world is open for them to do what they want, become whatever they want, and have fun doing it, is becoming increasingly apparent. The biggest problem for each is deciding what they truly want. A film with steamy romance, hardships of youth and laugh-out-loud moments.
By Paul Quinn
2014. Directed by Ahn Gooc-jin , starring Lee Jeong-hyun, Lee Hae-young, Seo Young-hwa , 90 mins.
A giddy concoction of social satire and surreal violence, wastes no time in grabbing the audience by the lapels. Leading lady Su-nam (Lee Jeong-hyun) bursts into a psychotherapist’s office and takes Gyeong-suk (Seo Young-hwa) prisoner. Once tied up, and force-fed a sliver of raw meat, Su-nam begins to recount to her captive audience how she came to be committing this criminal act. The backstory is a whirlwind, delivered breathlessly. The film has anger, railing against modern urban manifestations of the obnoxious. But do not worry, is far from a dour experience, a different tone is taken: the humour of frustration relieved through destructive happenstance. Debutant writer-director Ahn Gooc-jin delivers a mischievous anti-heroine comedy.
By Hemanth Kissoon
2014. Directed by Lee Won-suk , starring Han Seok-kyu, Ko Soo, Park Shin-hye, Yoo Yeon-seok , 127 mins.
Dol-Suk (Han Seok-kyu) is the head designer of the Sanguiwon, those responsible for the attire of royals in the palace. His unsurpassed skill and strict adherence to the rules of royal couture has led to him being highly regarded in the palace to the extent that his elevation to nobleman stature is imminent and almost guaranteed. The appearance in the royal household of maverick designer Kong-jin (Ko Soo) – brought to the palace by nobleman Pan-soo (Ma Dong-seok) – initially causes Dol-suk little more than minor irritation. However, as Kong-jin’s innovative clothing designs become increasingly popular with royals and commoners alike, not only does Dol-suk begin to see him as a threat to the future he has worked so hard to secure but this young, carefree man’s repeated flouting of long-held couture rules also threatens to change the entire royal household forever. With 60% of the budget for spent on sets and costumes, this film is an absolute must-see on the big screen.
By Paul Quinn