Tuesday, October 6, 2015

New Korean Films: The Return of the Veteran (2015 Week 31)


By Fabien Schneider

While celebrating his recent successful resolution of an international auto theft scheme, a detective, Do-cheol, has a serious clash with Tae-oh, a high-level gangster from Sun-jin Group. Determined to make him fall by pinning him any crime, Do-cheol starts investigating despite his boss’ disapproval. But suddenly a boy comes to ask for his help, as his father, who helped Do-cheol in his last case, has just been severely beaten up by Tae-oh. Do-cheol then decides to get Tae-ho at any cost.

This synopsis doesn’t feel much inspired on the paper, but what it lacks in originality is made up by the efficiency. It turns out that it comes from the mind of Director Ryoo Seung-wan, the one who is known for having infused The Berlin File (2012), The Unjust (2010), and Die Bad (2000) with a lot of energy. The local critics have been really positive about this film, praising its fresh take of this overused thematic, and the ability to add social criticism under the exciting rhythm of the action. And it appears that there is also a lot of humor. CJ Entertainment seems to share this view, since it pushed the distribution so far that this film will be projected on more than a thousand screens. Hwang Jeong-min surely has what it takes to be in the leading role, as he already proved it in New World (2012) and The Unjust. He also comes back from one of the most successful Korean films, Ode to my Father (2014), so he’s currently at his peak of popularity. On the other hand, his antagonist is played by Yoo Ah-hin, that you may know from his lead role in Punch (2011), but is more famous in South Korea for his many roles in TV dramas, and more precisely for the one he had in Secret last year. The film is currently on top of the tickets presales, and should logically also top the box-office.

Scary House
(무서운 집)

A couple of professional photographers in their 50s are furnishing their studio in the new apartment they just acquired, while also preparing mannequins for a coming event. While left alone in the apartment, the wife is enjoying the prospect of this new life and sings for herself, until she starts having the feeling that one of the mannequins is approaching and staring at her. Later on, she realizes that a strange noise seems to follow her.

Yang Byeong-gan may have debuted directing in 1985, but his filmography has stayed rather sparse. All of his films are imbued with erotic content, and his most famous feature so far is his last film, The Man from the Sun (1994). But now, 20 years later, he comes back out of nowhere with this film that looks to have been shot with a particularly short budget, judging from the trailer. Now, something interesting is happening on web portals like Naver and Daum: this film is getting a lot of high grades from the netizens, so far that it is ranked as one of the highest reviewed film currently in theaters. It appears that this film has become some kind of a meme among the community, like the target of a joint initiative to make fun of it. But while some are laughing “of” it, posting comments ironically praising the scaring content or the high artistic values, others are laughing “with” it, seeing this work as a B-grade horror film and recommending it for the laughs. One of the netizens even came with a label for this new kind of horror film: "kimchi horror film", which is to say horror films for middle-aged housewives.

Watch here the trailer in Korean.

New Korean Films is a weekly feature which provide an in-depth look at new local releases in Korea. For film news, external reviews, and box office analysis, take a look at the Korean Box Office UpdateKorean Cinema News and the Weekly Korean Reviews, which appear weekly on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday mornings (Korean Standard Time). Reviews and features on Korean film also appear regularly on the site. 

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