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Thread: What Asian Films Have You Been Watching Recently?

  1. #371
    It's $5 AMC stub Tuesday, so decided to check out Wong Jing & Jason Kwan's CHASING THE DRAGON starring Donnie Yen & Andy Lau. I had my initial doubts about Donnie Yen playing this role but thankfully they were laid to rest as he put forth a nice performance here playing Crippled Ho. Ng Sik-ho aka Crippled Ho was the Tony Montana of 1960's HK - mainland refugee with nothing but dreams of riches upon his arrival but quickly becomes the undisputed drug lord of HK due to his ruthless nature and take no prisoners approach. This screenplay had Crippled Ho more of a protective brother type looking over his criminal clan and extended family than a vicious drug kingpin. I prefer Poon Man-kit's early 90s flick, TO BE NUMBER ONE as Ray Lui played him much more over the top & closer to the truth in that regard. Andy Lau is back once again playing Lee Rock, the role he made famous in the two 90s movies that were also produced by Wong Jing. It's amazing that both of these actors who are in their mid-50s can still play characters who are supposed to be 20 years younger! Must be nice for the makeup department as well since all it requires for the actors to age onscreen is to change their haircuts and not dye their hair haha. Some decent action set pieces too -- the one taking place in The Golden Triangle was reminiscent of Michael Cimino's Thailand scene from YEAR OF THE DRAGON. So overall, it was decent but for a more entertaining look at the life of Crippled Ho, I'd recommend seeking out TO BE NUMBER ONE.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  2. #372
    I got a tip from a buddy of mine to go check out Kang Yoon-sung's directorial debut, THE OUTLAWS aka CRIMINAL CITY & he added that I wouldn't be disappointed. He was right! I had this movie on my shortlist for awhile due to it starring Ma Dong-suk aka Don Lee. So with his ringing endorsement that was enough for me to go check it out last night. Ma Dong-seok aka Don Lee went from character actor, supporting role type to leading man now and it doesn't surprise me as he just oozes charisma & has such onscreen presence even in minor roles. He plays a Dirty Harry character here & this script is based on a true event known as the "Heuksapa" incident where two different factions of Joseonjok gangsters are engaged in a brutal turf war in Seoul's Chinatown and Ma Dong-suk is the police detective in charge of the operation of putting them away. This role is perfect for Dong-suk as it really showcases his tough guy persona (it's just now all for show either as he has real street cred formerly being a personal trainer to MMA fighters like Mark Coleman) but still allows him show his fatherly side to his underlings on the force and his adopted Chinatown community. Dong-suk dishes out some funny one liners & takes advantage of the audience perception of him as a tough guy to provide some comic relief amidst all the carnage (yes, it gets pretty graphic including a close up of the aftermath of a dismemberment) & violence of the ensuing gang war. The other standout performer was the main villain, Yoon Kye-sang who I last saw in the excellent BACCHUS LADY and also I remember him from POONGSAN & he is appropriately menacing as the ambitious gang enforcer from Harbin who sets upon Garibong to make his mark in the most brutal way possible. Definitely worth checking out if the story interests piques your interest and I'll be picking this up on physical media too.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  3. #373
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Chivalry of Judo Life (任侠柔一代) (Japan, 1966) [TV] - 2.5/5
    Before Toei got into mass producing martial arts movies (other than samurai flicks), there was a handful of films to that mixed yakuza storylines with hand to hand fighting. This one is a ninkyo yakuza judo film. Hideo Murata is an honourable gangster who tries to assassinate rotten boss Hosei Komatsu but gets his own ass kicked. Young judo fighter Hiroki Matsukata comes to rescue. Meanwhile Komatsu gets bodyguard Tomisaburo Wakayama to look after him. Wandering karate fighter Saburo Kitajima who dislikes both Komatsu and Matsukata appears and further complicates things. Though the fights are old fashioned and a bit slow, they are quite nicely staged. Unfortunately there are too few of them. As a ninkyo film the movie is technically well done but not especially engaging. Drama lacks the kind of strong moral conflicts that you find in better ninkyo films, and it's not always clear who is supposed to be the main character. Not that bad, but not great either. The nice theme music sounds like it could be from a Zorro movie.



    Secret Turkish Bath ((秘)トルコ風呂) (Japan, 1968) [TV] - 1.5/5
    A remarkably tame sexploitation tale of silly country girl Reiko Ohara running into playboy / pimp Tatsuo Umemiya in Tokyo. Toei produced quite a few of these type of films with Umemiya as the lead. They seem to have been aimed at relatively conservative audiences since they remained very tame well into the 70s. In this film nudity accounts to a couple of blink-and-you'll-miss shots with extras, and sex equals to hugging with clothes on. Toei's advertising campaign that billed it a "sex movie" with "orgies, lesbianism and prostitutes" was hyperbole at its best. Ohara, although cute at first, also becomes quite annoying with her silly I-don't-get-the-city-mentality act. Director Shinji Murayama was usually a competent director, but in this film he can't help the pointless screenplay that fails to construct any kind of meaningful storyline. A few frames of late 60s street and disco footage are the only worthwhile bits. For a much better film see the similarly themed Bitches of the Night (1966), also directed by Murayama, with largely the same cast. It has even less sex, but comes with a far better screenplay.

    The Most Dangerous Game (最も危険な遊戯) (Japan, 1978) [DVD] - 2/5
    A typical Yusaku Matsuda film, popular but underwhelming, made during the transitional era when Japanese cinema was moving away from masculine action towards story driven dramas and noir. The problem with these films was that they didn't really work in either genre, and were often sloppily made by action or exploitation directors who were given orders to cut down exploitation and emphasize story. The Game (Yugi) series was produced by Toei's low budget branch Toei Central. The series went from action (the 1s film) to dull noir (the 3rd film). This opening installment is an exceptionally stupid action flick with the charismatic Yusaku Matsuda as an assassin. The film suffers from ridiculous action scenes where Matsuda can outrun a car and avoid every bullet fired at him from a close distance (the bad guys have a worse aim than a blind Storm Trooper). On the positive side, the film is so unbelievably sexist that one can't help but to be amused.

    Ninja Hunter (忍者狩り) (Japan, 2015) [Hulu] - 2.5/5
    Seiji Chiba's mini-budget ninja actioner is sloppy cinema, but comes with an amazing finale that that rivals anything in The Raid. The storyline is a crossover between Rashomon and Memento, with a ninja (Masanori Mimoto of Alien vs. Ninja) waking up in a cave, minus his memory, and surrounded by corpses. Another ninja (Bushido Man's Mitsuki Koga) shows up, claiming to be a fellow Iga warrior, but something stinks in his story. The rest of the film is spent with the ninja recovering his memory little by little in reverse chronological order. There are some slightly original ideas, such as seeing one fight 4 times from different perspectives, as well as infuriating visual effects every time the film shows a flashback (which is about 20 times) and lots of bad acting. But the plentiful action by Japan's best choreographer Kensuke Sonomura is entertaining, and in case of the 8 min finale, breathtakingly furious, some of the best ever filmed in Japan. What's best, the fight is expertly captured with clear cinematography and logical editing, unlike some other recent action films (e.g. nonsensically edited John Wick 2, shakycam Raid 2).




    + Tokyo viewings which I have already covered to some extent in the other thread

    Seven Bullets (七つの弾丸) (Japan, 1959) [35mm] - 3/5
    Toei docudrama about a man (Rentaro Mikuni) who robbed a bank in Osaka in 1955 and left multiple people dead before his arrest. Well made and gripping film spends almost all of its running time paralleling the daily lives of the bank robber and his soon-to-be victims prior to the incident. The amount of attention given to the victims is interesting but excessive considering most of them get killed in a matter of seconds during a sequence where the audience's attention is anyway drawn to action and a desperate escape attempt rather than victims.



    Two Bitches (二匹の牝犬) (Japan, 1964) [35mm] - 4/5
    Terrific, gripping drama about a Tokyo prostitute (Mayumi Ogawa) seeing marriage with a clueless businessman as her way out of the sex labour, until her seemingly innocent and ultra-cute little sister (Mako Midori) shows up and turns out a completely sociopath. She secretly starts whoring on her own and even seduces her sister's fiancé who is unaware of the two women being sisters. Director Yusuke Watanabe (of miscellaneous gangster films and a few entries to the popular Detective Story film series) is not know as one of the greats, but here manages strong drama, some fantastic camerawork (including a long tracking shot, the kind Shinji Somai would do two decades later) and absolute powerhouse performances by Midori and Ogawa. Midori especially was a terrific and underappreciated actress, best known to Western audiences as the female lead of Masumura's Blind Beast (1969). As an interesting trivia, although Two Bitches has since been forgotten, it played in various European countries in the mid 60s, including West Germany, Denmark, and Finland.



    Wrath of Daimajin (大魔神逆襲) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 3/5
    Enjoyable fantasy with a nice sense of adventure and bits of genuine movie magic. Being the only Daimajin film I've seen I cannot compare it to the first two, but that did not hamper my enjoyment of this film. It's also a typical Daiei film in the sense that it's well made but a bit safe and conservative in its approach, which means there are no major surprises. The special effects are fantastic.

    Four and a Half Mats (四畳半物語 娼婦し) (Japan, 1966) [35mm] - 1.5/5
    Director Masashige Narusawa was better known as a prestige writer who penned several Kenji Mizoguchi films (e.g. Street of Shame). This period drama about a prostitute and her heartaches unfortunately put me to a sleep a few times during its middle third. Don't be fooled by the R18 rating which is a bit of a mystery even by 1966 standards as there isn't even partial nudity nor any on-screen sex, or bloody violence.

    Military Comfort Woman (従軍慰安婦) (Japan, 1974) [35mm] - 2/5
    A little known Toei film about a Japanese WW2 era brothel and its women, written by Teruo Ishii and directed by Ryuichi Takamori. Unfortunately we get the worst of both gentlemen here; Takamori's sloppy handling of drama and Ishii's dumb humour. Add bad acting, especially by Yutaka Nakajima, and it becomes impossible to tell if the film was supposed to be taken seriously or not. What is clear though, is that a sexploitation flick it is not as nudity is very sparse. There is some fun to be had, though, the highlight being a scene where a hooker saves the day on the battlefield by pissing on an overheated machine gun. Not every film has quality stuff like that on offer.

    The Story of a Nymphomaniac (好色元禄㊙物語) (Japan, 1975) [35mm] - 1.5/5
    Though better known for their pinky violence line, Toei also churned out loads of erotic comedies and dramas, most of which have never come out on home video. This tiresome period comedy is one of the better known ones, perhaps due to popular mainstream and ex-Toho actress Yuriko Hishimi's starring role. Unfortunately the tale of Hishimi pimping her sister (with the help of a monk) to lusty men is as dumb as they come, and seems to have been filmed with far more modest production values than Norifumi Suzuki's comparable films (e.g. Tokugawa Sex Ban, 1972) from a few years before.

    Tenshi no yokubo (天使の欲望) (Japan, 1979) [35mm] - 2.5/5
    An oddly misbalanced film pretending to be a serious drama about two sisters while helmed by the exploitative hand of sexploitation director Ikuo Sekimoto. In the film a slutty older sister spends all her time sleeping with men or getting raped. Once the virginal younger sister discovers this, her disappointment initiates a psychological and eventually physical war that climaxes in an unintentionally silly scene where the two fight it out in the nude. On the positive side, the film is rarely boring.

    Evil Dead Trap (死霊の罠) (Japan, 1988) [35mm] - 4/5
    Endlessly re-watchable horror fun by Toshiharu Ikeda and writer Takashi Ishii. Ikeda claims he had not seen the Italo flicks, which is hard to believe with the similarities ranging from Argento esque camerawork to Fulci inspired kills and a fantastic "bootleg Goblin" score. Ikeda and Ishii also manage some of the most spectacular kills that come to mind, and a (mostly) fantastic pacing that takes the film from one set piece to another with little regards to logic, which is something the audience just has to deal with. The final act does drags a bit, though, before delivering the goods big time. Ikeda, a former Roman Porno director, also scatters the film with sex and nudity (two of the three female leads are 80s AV stars). The English title is faithful to the original (Shiriyo no wana = "Trap of Evil"), which is indeed a reference to The Evil Dead (Shiryo no harawata = "Guts of the Evil"). Co-produced by Japan Home Video, which did the later Guinea Pig films and some Riki Takeuchi action, and Director's Company, a small arthouse firm formed by Ikeda, Shinji Somai, Sogo Ishii, Kichitaro Negishi and a few other young filmmakers to produce their own films.



    Dokyumento: Seijuku genchizuma (ドキュメント 性熟現地妻) (Japan, 1995) - 2.5/5
    A pink film docudrama about a Shinjuku club hiring and exploiting Chinese women as sex workers. It should be noted that the word "documentary" in the title accounts for little more than a real life topic being the centre of an otherwise fictional film. It is, however, a surprisingly decent film for a "sex flick" as I found myself somewhat caring for the characters towards the end. While director Shigeo Katsuyama's primary ambitious may be centered around large breasts, there is more than that to the film, including bits functional characterization, social commentary, and a 90s atmosphere slightly reminiscent of Miike's Shinjuku Triad Society (minus the violence and madness).

    Aching Wives: Continuous Adultery (うずく人妻たち 連続不倫) (Japan, 2006) [35mm] - 3.5/5
    I wasn't too happy to see my favourite movie theatre in Tokyo to "waste" their Late Show slot on semi recent Shintoho pink films. I'm glad to have been proven wrong as, at least in the case of this film, someone has done fine programming job exposing one of those small semi-gems a casual viewer would otherwise never discover. Hidden beneath the fleshy premise and ridiculous title, Aching Wives: Continuous Adultery turned out to be a rather beautiful film set in two time periods. A young single man and middle aged woman with troubled marriage first meet and have a brief affair in 1995. In 2007 they meet again by chance in a small hot springs hotel where he, now married, has escaped his troubles, and she, who has managed to fix her marriage but not forget him, arrives with her husband. Effectively minimalist and sad film with surprisingly fine performances.


  4. #374
    Recently watched Takeshi Furusawa's live action adaptation of ReLIFE. Having never read the manga nor having seen the anime & generally not being a fan of this genre, I went in with zero expectations. Although, I felt it to be too syrupy especially during second half; in the end, it was okay for light viewing. I was never wholly convinced by the majority of the characters nor the storyline but I have to admit that actress Yuna Taira was fantastic. She played the socially inept & emotionally stunted but academically high achieving girl perfectly. I remember her from the movie, PALE MOON where she played Rie Miyazawa as a young girl who becomes obsessed with donating to her school charity for third world children & she was a standout in that film as well. Looking at her filmography, had no idea her debut was in Koreeda's I WISH but I may have to revisit that movie to check her out.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  5. #375
    Caught Taiwanese director Chenn Hsiang's debut film EXIT. Some parts reminded me quite a bit of Tsai Ming-liang especially the quiet lingering shots of lead actress, Chen Shiang-chyi holed up in her apartment. Speaking of which, she is superb here playing a middle aged woman whose menopausal symptoms make her come to the stark realization that her life is fucked -- recently unemployed, an apathetic husband in a loveless marriage, a rebellious teen age daughter who sees her as an inconvenience, & burdened by the filial duty to her hospital bound mother-in-law. Her only release is coming to the aid of a blind injured man who lays next to her in law in the same hospital room. The whimpering sounds of pain produced by the man while she gently bathes him signifies some sort of eroticism and sexual tension between the two but it was generally disturbing! A very Asian film on many levels & the pacing is tedious at times but the universal themes of disconnect with greater society, loneliness, mid life crisis & Shiang-chyi's nuanced performance make this film worth seeking out.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  6. #376
    Senior Member Takuma's Avatar
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    Zatoichi on the Road (座頭市喧嘩旅) (Japan, 1963) [BD] - 3.5/5
    Part 5. As Chris D pointed out, this film's title merely states the obvious as Zatoichi is always on the road. The title is especially apt in case of this film, however. I think there also lies one of the main charms of the Zatoichi films. From a modern person's perspective, it's almost enviable to see a man who is not in a hurry anywhere, walking the earth, running into new adventures and inhaling the fresh air as he passes the ever changing beautiful landscapes. It is a romanticized dream and perfect escapism for a modern viewer. This film does fine job capturing all that via lush cinematography and fine score. Katsu's performance is also wonderful. Supporting characters are unfortunately limited to the usual crooked villains (including one especially ungrateful female role) and a helpless pretty girl in a need of a bodyguard.

    Fight, Zatoichi, Fight (座頭市喧嘩旅) (Japan, 1964) [BD] - 2.5/5
    Part 8. Zatoichi on the road with an infant. He's assisted by a female pickpocket who agrees to help in taking care of the baby. They of course both fall in love with the baby which they are supposed to take to his father, which produces some annoying melodrama to accompany the rather comedic narrative. For some reason this is one of the most popular films in the series. "Zatoichi changing a baby's diapers" is basically the film in a nutshell. There is, however, a genuinely touching scene near the end with Zatoichi meeting a temple priest (Yoshi Kato, whose face should be more familiar to most viewers than his name) that alone makes the film feel somewhat rewarding.

    Zatoichi and the Chess Expert (座頭市地獄旅) (Japan, 1965) [BD] - 4/5
    Part 12. Zatoichi films are similar to ninkyo yakuza films in the sense that their quality doesn't come down so much to originality as to how beautifully they recite the usual formula. In Zatoichi films the basic patter is that of a road movie, with much emphasis on Zatoichi's interaction with the people he meets. This one is one of the best films in the series. The film's asset is Mikio Narita as a psychotic yet friendship seeking swordsman and chess master who becomes Zatoichi's travel companion to treat his own loneliness and desire for intellectual challenge. Throughout the film they walk a fine line between friendship and death. The film is beautifully directed by Kenji Misumi, with a fine balance between interesting characterization and fast moving action. There's also a very funny gambling scene played to the perfection.

    Zatoichi's Vengeance (座頭市の歌が聞える) (Japan, 1965) [BD] - 3.5/5
    Part 13. It's not where you go, it's who you meet along the way. This routinely plotted (small town terrorized by an evil gang) but otherwise well written entry is vitalized by a set of excellent supporting characters. Zatoichi crosses paths with a good hearted prostitute, a samurai willing to risk his life for money, and a blind monk who forces Zatoichi to consider his actions from a moral perspective. Although the latter aspect is not developed as far as one would wish, it adds some depth to the exceptionally well choreographed fight fest. The film also sees Zatoichi momentarily grab a katana (as opposed to his usual cane sword) which translates to different, more traditional fighting style.

    Zatoichi's Pilgrimage (座頭市海を渡る) (Japan, 1966) [BD] - 3.5/5
    The 14th film in the series promises a more spiritual approach with Zatoichi deciding to visit 88 shrines to atone for the lives he's taken. It is a bit of a shame the film does not ultimately pursue this path, but instead throws Zatoichi into another adventure when his journey is interrupted by an assassin sent after him. This is, nevertheless, an enjoyable and exceptionally romantic entry in the series with the wounded Zatoichi nursed back to health by a woman whose brother he killed. The lady is charmingly played by Michiyo Yasuda, who remains virtually unknown outside of Japan but was a major action star at Daiei in the late 60s, starring in films such as Kanto Woman Yakuza (1968), Bamboo Leaf Omon (1968) and Lady Sazen and the Drenched Swallow Sword (1969). This film is also "notorious" for having been unavailable outside of Japan for ages because Tarantino and Miramax had acquired the rights, apparently in case they'd decide to remake it.

    Modern Yakuza: Three Cherry Blossom Blood Brothers (現代やくざ 血桜三兄弟) (Japan, 1971) [VoD] - 2.5/5
    The 4th film in the series (not 5th; many English language sources mistakenly include the 1969 film "Outlaw of Shinjuku" in the series). Three small time gangsters (Bunta Sugawara, Tsunehiko Watase and Goro Ibuki) get involved in a deadly gang war after a suave gambler and ladies men (Asao Koike) arrives the town and causes a yakuza conflict. Quite a passable, but ultimately forgettable modern day yakuza film made just before the jitsuroku era. Groovy score and good performances (especially Ichiro Araki as a shy wanna-be gangster) are the film's assets. The film would probably rate a notch higher if there weren't scores of other, more accomplished yakuza films out there. Very watchable nevertheless.



    Showa Woman Gambler (昭和おんな博徒) (Japan, 1972) [DVD] - 4.5/5
    A superb ninkyo yakuza film by Tai Kato, who best known for his minimalist style. This film, however, is more dramatic, an emotionally draining tale of a suicidal woman (Kyoko Enami) saved by a decent yakuza (Hiroki Matsukata) who is named as a successor for a dying gang boss. The man's yakuza brother (Fumio Watanabe) doesn't take this well and teams up with other gangsters to hire an assassin, who is an honourable man nursing his wife, to take care of things. Normally, this would suffice for an entire storyline in a ninkyo film, but here it only accounts for the first half. There are several brilliant scenes, such as the one where Enami, wishing to degrade herself in order to be accepted as a wife by yakuza Matsukata, begs an old tattoo master to tattoo her back. The whole cast is terrific, including several actors cast against type (regular Toei slime bags Tatsuo Endo and Akira Shioji as benevolent gangsters) but it's Enami who shines the brightest. Her slow, torturous transform into a yakuza gambler brings tears even to a jaded yakuza film viewer's eyes.



    This was, btw, my 100th movie for 1972.


    Kôkôsei burai hikae: Tsuki no Muramasa (高校生無頼控 突きのムラマサ) (Japan, 1973) [VoD] - 2.5/5
    The 2nd film in the Muramasa trilogy, all based on Kazuo Koike comic books, these are quite a bit more light hearted than the material he is usually associated with. There's plenty of silliness mixed with nostalgic 70s youth comedy innocence, and no, sexism, groping and bit of raping were not deemed unfit for this context back then. The film opens with high school kid gone watadori Muramasa is practicing kendo bare-assed by the river, which shocks a pretty lady so bad she falls off her bike. A few moments (and a lecture about manhood's symbol) later he's already "accidentally" groping her breasts while getting a ride, all thanks to a bumpy road of course. The rest of the film follows in the same trails, with Muramasa coming across goofy characters and hot girls, with little in terms of plot. Muramasa is this time played by Masaaki Daimon, and the girls he runs into are Yuriko Hishimi (teacher), Yayoi Watanabe (bar girl) and Sayoko Kato (school girl), all of whom he manages relieve of their clothing. Worth mentioning as a bit of trivia is that all three films (1972-1973) premiered as Toho "Wild Youth" double features with the Rica films, a series that started out mean and gritty, but eventually went down the Muramasa road of comic book silliness.


  7. #377
    I'm self admitted Choi Min-sik trash and pretty much have to see every flick he appears either as the lead or cameo. So I went ahead & checked out his latest, HEART BLACKENED aka SILENCE by director Jung Ji-woo the other night. It's a remake of the Chinese flick, SILENT WITNESS that starred Aaron Kwok as the lead prosecutor. I saw it a few years ago and have it on dvd somewhere. Having already seen the original Chinese movie, I knew what to expect but still wanted to see Choi Min-sik's acting chops. He does his usual fine job but felt he had to hold back due to the material. I think he can do these type of roles in his sleep and the script is a paint by numbers mystery crime thriller but certain scenes (the one on the dock in Bangkok and the prison scene with his profligate daughter) really show Choi Min-sik's onscreen presence. Not a horribly bad movie but just mediocre all around. Park Shin-hye plays the lawyer assigned to defend Sik's daughter ( a role that Yun Nan played with more aplomb in the original) and current "it" actor, Ryu Joon-yeol is also in this playing a terrible miscast role as a fanboy who may hold the key to the entire case.

    Just like the original, the viewer can see the ending 'twist' coming a mile away and just like the original, I felt it insulted the viewer's intelligence to have to show the elaborate display on how it was staged for the CCTV camera.

    Jung Ji-woo's debut dark comedic film, HAPPY END about the vagaries of a loveless marriage & the consequences of infidelity, which also starred Choi Min-sik and Jeon Do-yeon is much better viewing and a masterpiece in comparison to this one.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

  8. #378
    One of my most anticipated films was Byun Sung-hyun's THE MERCILESS ever since I heard it got the longest standing ovation at Cannes among all the Korean films that played this year. Unfortunately, I didn't get to see this in the theater because I'm not sure it even played here in the States & if it did, I obviously missed it. The Korean dvd is just barely coming out this month and not sure who has the NA rights or if this will get a domestic blu ray release, so I had to make due with a pretty nice HD rip with English subs transcribed from the original French ones. I'm wary of watching movies with these type of sketchy subs but beggars can't be choosers and for the most part, the subs were decent.

    Anyway, I was not disappointed for the most part. Nicely scripted, well paced and one of the few Korean films in which the two hour run time didn't feel in need of editing. Yes, there's been some recent Korean flicks centering around the similar storyline of a cop going deep cover in prison but this one rises above those films like THE PRISON. I was really engrossed in the story which admittedly borrows heavily from INFERNAL AFFAIRS & CITY ON FIRE and the non-linear flashback narrative wasn't a drag like in some other films.

    I was a bit worried if lead actor, Im Siwan could pull of such a demanding role as he's known more for his TV work and as peripheral characters like in Yang Woo-Seok's THE ATTORNEY (another excellent film). Just from outward appearances, with his slim build and pretty boy features, I was wary if he can be convincing enough playing a tough guy. He's one of those ex-Kpop boyband idols who turned actor but he's considered one of the better ones and I can see why he's been receiving accolades. But he just didn't do it for me. I know the director wanted to show the transformation of a greenhorn cop with a goofy persona who turns into a hardened mole with his own agenda but Siwan wasn't totally convincing IMO. No such concerns with the rest of the cast though especially Sol Kyung-gyu (who I just saw in MEMOIR OF A MURDERER), he's one of the better actors working today and was pleasantly surprised by Jeon Hye-jin who played the resolute & unscrupulous detective in charge of the entire operation.

    The opening and ending scenes still linger in my memory which is a good thing for any film. So despite my slight reservations of the casting of the lead, everything else was just about spot on. Definitely recommended and will be looking to purchase the blu ray release down the road whether it's from CJ Ent themselves or some other distributor.

    "only the simplest can accommodate the most complex"

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