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

Once Upon a Time In High School (2004)

Genre: Drama

Just like with his piece A Dirty Carnival where he reminisces his troubled youth, poetic director Ha Yoo, takes viewers into another trip down memory lanes with his Once Upon a Time In High School (Maljukgeori janhoksa), as the obvious title suggest, this time revisiting strict, violent Korean high school environment of 1970's in nostalgia filled school drama.

Hyeon-su (Sang-woo Kwone) transfers to Jungmoon school, notorious for it's draconian teaching methods an violence among students. There he befriends Woo-shik (Jeong-jin Lee), a seasoned authority of this school. What helps to bond their friendship is shared passion for Bruce Lee's personality and his films.

One day Hyeon-su while on a bus ride, spots a cute girl, and instantly falls in love with her, and unfortunately for him, so does Woo-shik. Girls name is Eun-ju (Ga-in Han) and she is his senior from girls only school nearby. A one sided battle for her heart ensues among the friends.

As his friend Woo-shik, gets in trouble with schools student patrol captain, after being set up he eventually is expelled from school, and with no one to hold him accountable, Jong-hoon, said student captain, begins his reign of bullying. Hyeon-su no longer being able to bear this, with his cup of anger full, he is forced to face his foes and act, as his hero Bruce Lee would.

What many critics agree is that under the mask of this, seemingly simple high school drama, hides a more serious examination of Korean educational approach that was widely spread in these years, when violence was an acceptable method of handling the students.

Friendship, love affairs, bullying, likable (and not that likable) characters, everything you might expect from entertaining movie about high school.

Successfully made movie that won't disappoint or bore the viewers. Recommended.

DVD from Amazon

A Dirty Carnival (2006)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller

A Dirty Carnival (Biyeolhan geori) is gangster movie directed by Yoo Ha, to this day it's his most successful project. Yoo Ha also is a poet. He chose to make such violent and gritty movies as a remembrance of his days as youth during darker times of South Korea history.

Kim Byung-doo (In-seong Jo) is 29 year old small time gangster, that has no opportunities to excel in his line of work, and is burdened by his family, a sick mother and pair of siblings he has to take care of. As he loses his only source of income, a small arcade house, to a fellow gangster he becomes really desperate, but at the right time opportunity comes to solve all his problems, a hit job on his boss and corrupt government official. All goes well and he gets back on his feet.

Soon, however, old friend from his childhood turns up. An aspiring movie director Min-ho (Min Nam-koong) who asks for expertise to finish his new movie about gangsters. In-seong Jo reveals a bit too much and when the movie is finished and becomes really popular, some people start to ask questions...

A great gangster drama, where director doesn't glorify gangster life style but portrays it in really realistic and gritty manner. Amazingly violent and brutal gang fight scenes, inner struggles of main character in cruel world of crime. There's bit of everything needed for successful gangster movie.

Recommended for any fan of genre.

Blu-rayDVD from Amazon.
Blu-ray (Limited Edition) from YesAsia.