December 13, 2013

The Berlin File (2013)

Genre: Action, Drama, Thriller














The Berlin File is a South Korean spy thriller, directed and written by Seung-wan Ryoo, established director in Korean industry, know for many movies, and particularly for Crying Fist and City of Violence, both found on this site. This movie is most successful project of Seung-wan Ryoo so far, and box office record holder for the genre in South Korea.

The plot is quite complex and hard to summarize, but that wouldn't be international espionage thriller if it would be that simple.


Berlin, Germany. All starts with black market weapon deal staked out by old timer South Korean intelligence agent Jung Jin So (Suk-kyu Han) and his team but before they can make their move, things go wrong. After his escape from this mess North Korean operative Pyo Jong Sung (Jung-woo Ha) who back home is considered a national hero, understands that he's been set up and betrayed, he and his wife (Gianna Jun) who works in North's embassy as translator are in center of internal power struggle in Pyongyang. CIA, Russian arms dealers, North and South's spy's, Mossad, Arab terrorist organizations, all make their own plays and appearances in this entangled spider web.



The movie is almost entirely filmed in Europe, in many locations to provide authenticity for what's happening on the screen.

The film is quite long, around two hours, but it balances it's pace very well. Slow dialogues and scenes that set up mood of seriousness and importance of character actions, followed by hard hitting, high octane stylish action scenes, be it hand to hand, or heavy weaponry.  Director himself has stated that he wanted it to resemble popular western spy thriller Borne Identity.

It's notable that this is another collaboration of director Seung-wan Ryoo and his younger brother Seung-beom Ryu who plays ruthless "problem solver", hopeful more will follow.

Brilliant cast of some of the best Korean actors, beautiful action scenes, solid cinematography, full of intrigue. A great entry for spy genre.

DVD from Amazon

November 11, 2013

Behind the Scenes of Oldboy

Oldboy is probably THE most popular Korean movie in the world, and has proved itself as a great starting point for many movie fans who are discovering Korean cinema for the first time. And it's a starting point for this blog as well, being first post made here.

While browsing I accidentally stumbled upon this amazing video that was included with collectors edition of Oldboy and which some good soul uploaded has Youtube. A behind the scenes / Making Of documentary.



Cinematography, acting, story. Everything in this movie is on the highest level. And now we have chance, for more than three hours to be a part of it.

To see genius personality of director Chan-wook Park in person. To see famous actors like Byung-hun Lee and Kang-ho Song paying casual visits to set just to have a few laughs with friends. Interaction of crew and actors. Technical difficulties and filming techniques. And to see how many octopus were eaten during famous scene? Priceless.

It's amazing insight into Korean working culture and brilliant personalities who are behind this movie.

A treat to any movie fan. And with american remake of Oldboy soon hitting cinemas, it's about time to remember what made the original so great.



September 8, 2013

Howling (2012)

Genre: Crime, Thriller, Mystery














Howling, a film from already established Korean director and a poet Ha Yoo best known to us for his films Once Upon a Time In High School and A Dirty Carnival.This time he takes a leap from his favorite drama genre to a thriller mystery.


A seasoned detective Sang-Kill (Kang-ho Song) eager for a big case to hasten his promotion, gets assigned to investigate what appears to be a suicide by self-immolation. Unwillingly he is partnered with rookie female detective Eun-Young (Na-yeong Lee) who is disdained in this male dominant police unit. It is later found out that that the victim of fire had huge bite marks on his body, that resemble dog or a wolf, and when further investigation reveals more murders done in similar manner it becomes unclear who and how is committing these murders. Both cops are determined to solve this mystery.




Seasoned cop and a rookie, quite cliche in detective movies, don't you think? But as it happens with cliches, director made it work just fine, and the pair working together, enhanced by excellent acting of both lead actors, to solve this mystery is a pleasure to watch. 

This movie also touches on women rights in South Korea, and point's out that there are still problems in this area even today, where man often based on prejudice refuse to accept women into their profession.

There are parts in this movie that I think are totally useless, serve no purpose and are just silly in their appearance (a hint for those who will watch it - motorcycle). But they are very few and not import to overall movie.

By no means it's a perfect movie, but it's fairly entertaining, has a solid plot, quality production and offers delight to see more Kang-ho Song amazing acting on your screens. Overall a fine flick for weary evening.

DVD from Amazon

July 17, 2013

New World (2013)

Genre: Crime, Thriller














New World is a second movie from new face in South Korean cinema Hoon-jung Park, who started his career as scriptwriter, better known to us for his work at brilliant movie I Saw the Devil. Now he's stepped up a notch and this is his second movie that he not just directs, but writes a script for. Someone to keep an eye on in future.


It all starts when a chairman of major Korean crime syndicate dies in a traffic accident. Power struggle begins to name his successor. Two rival groups within are committed to take the chair, one is led by jest Jeong Cheong (Jeong-min Hwang) and his right hand Ja-seong (Lee Jeong-jae), other by sinister Lee Joong-gu (Seong-Woong Park). But there is third player involved in the game, police who have planted mole in the organization and now are trying to influence movements within to their own interests. Who will come out as a victor in this game?

While the premise must sound familiar or even cliche to any crime genre fans, events that unfold during the film and in the end are not so typical, and will leave these viewers most definitely satisfied.


Film is about big fish of crime world, and everything is clean and expensive there. Good looking people, expensive cars, beautiful apartments and exquisite office buildings. It's just a good looking movie itself to support the events it's showing. Even when the hands get really dirty, which they do, it keeps it's good looks.

Some really solid cinematography and good actor casting for lead roles, it's always a pleasure to look at Min-sik Choi's acting. Supplemented with quiet, almost classical, ambient music so fit to the theme of the movie.

As I wrote above, it's a good looking film, a film about top brass of organized crime in best traditions of the genre, and more. Well worth a watch.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon

July 8, 2013

Oldboy you ask? Oldboy, Spike Lee replies. (2013)



UPD: Trailer has been released can be viewed here

10 years have passed since release of the original and now it's time to have a look at first official poster for Hollywood's remake of Korean classic Oldboy.

You can see the actor Josh Brolin who will portray Min-sik Choi's charming character whom we all come to love so much from the original. I don't have high hopes for this, but Spike Lee can sometimes surprise with his moviemaking skills and it will definitely be interesting to see western take on such unusual and cruel story.

To be released in October, 2013.

(don't bother visiting the site mentioned on the poster as it's not yet working)

By clicking Read more button below you can see some unused posters that had been leaked before.

June 12, 2013

Pieta (2012)

Genre: Drama














Pieta is latest movie from exceptional and famous Korean director Ki-duk Kim, known for such tranquil and dramatic masterpieces as 3-IronSpring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring, Samaria and many more that I had no opportunity to watch yet. He is no stranger to Cannes and Venice film festivals, however this particular movie triumphed at Venice film festival earning most prestige award there, Golden Lion.



Gang-Do (Jeong-jin Lee) lives in a small once blooming industrial district known for it's crafty metalworking, that now is laying down in poverty and is slowly being swallowed by the big city. People leave, and the ones that stay are unable to make ends meet. Gang-Do is a cruel, heartless debt collector for a local loan shark. One day he encounters a woman, who claims to his own mother whom abandoned him at birth. Thinking it's some kind of cruel joke, he rejects her claims, but she doesn't let go and is tenacious so eventually after some times passes they start to bond together. But who she really is? What are her reasons for appearing so sudden?

Recently there has been big influx of fantastic Korean movies whose central theme revolves around mother figure. Almost all the influential Korean directors have made a movies about it, such as Mother, Poetry, Secret Sunshine. Which in itself is not a surprise, considering that every living person in the world has a mother, so the story possibilities are quite extensive. Now it was Ki-duk Kim's time to make one.



It's a bleak, and sad movie, devoid of any lasting happiness. Jeong-jin Lee's character is cruel, cruel to his new found mother, to creditors, to himself. The world that raised him was cruel too.

What grabbed my attention is interesting camera work that was present in the movie, almost all the shots were filmed with hand held camera, even the static close ups, which made for some shaky, and at times amateurish experience, which might be what director was going after.

Ill be honest, this so far is my least liked Ki-duk Kim's movie. While it was quite gloomy and brutal, I felt it somehow lacked that realism which I love in movies, the feeling that such people exist and such events might happen to them. It felt more like theater performance on the big scene with set pieces instead of actual world out there. Maybe it was intended to be in a such way, isolated, out of this world experience like famous Michelangelo's sculpture Pieta, an artwork to be displayed and seen alone, by itself. To capture a moment of life.

Nonetheless, it didn't win Golden Lion for no reason, so while it may not be to my liking, definitely watch it and be a judge for yourself.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon