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
Yellow Sea (Hwanghae) is second, and so far his latest, movie from director Hong-jin Na set in similar dark tones as his brilliant debut The Chaser.
In China, near the boarder of North Korea, lives Gu-nam (Jung-woo Ha), a poor taxi driver whose has amounted large debts due to his gambling habits. His wife has left to work in South Korea with promise to send back money, but he hasn't heard from her for half a year. Worried about her, sinking deeper in debts and being pushed around by debt collectors, he takes onto local gangsters offer to come to South Korean and kill a local businessman for mere $10000
Upon arriving, unwillingly he finds himself in a tight spot where police, local gangs and international mafia want to have a word with him. Still, he has to find his wife amid all that mess.
Coming from his fame of The Chaser, a lot was expected from Hong-jin Na and with Yellow Sea he has proven that he is capable director with bright future ahead.
In middle of all that, there is a lot of politics and ethnic commentary from director, as the main character is Korean immigrant, citizen of China, living near North Korea, and finding his luck in South Korea. Thus the name of the movie Yellow Sea - a sea that connects all of this.
Dark and grim. Movie about a running man with no way out. Recommended.
DVD from Amazon
The Client (Eui-roi-in) is South Korean variation on so called courtroom thriller genre directed by director Young-Sung Sohn.
Han Cheol-min (Hyuk Jang) returns home from a car ride on his wedding anniversary, holding bouquet of flowers for his wife he proceeds to apartment building, which is surrounded by crowd of curious bystanders. After he gets past them, stepping into apartment he meets several policeman who are investigating crime scene. A crime scene in his home. There's blood everywhere in bedroom, and his wife is missing. Immediately Han Cheol-min is arrested for murder of his wife.
Circumstances of crime are puzzling, and with inconclusive evidence, a legal battle in halls of justice begins between prosecutor Ahn Min-Ho (Hee-soon Park) and defense lawyer Kang Seong-Hee (Jung-woo Ha), each convinced of their own truth about Han Cheol-min. What will trial uncover?
While this movie can be labeled as courtroom thriller (and it's pitched as first one for South Korea, but I am not so sure about it, and with no way to verify, we'll leave it at that) as it involves everything that such films need, a crime, a defendant, and whole might of justice system, it is not strictly spent inside courtroom. The dose of mystery surrounding the crime, and investigations put in place by involved parties are in focus, trial is just what ties it together.
Good performance by actors, fine cinematography and intriguing crime mystery for a plot. A thriller in best traditions of Korean cinema. While fans of courtroom films won't be overly surprised by events in this film, it's a solid example of such genre. A proper thriller flick, worth checking out.
DVD from YesAsia
The Chaser (Chugyeogja) is directorial debut of Hong-jin Na who currently is one of the hottest directors in South Korea, and his latest movie The Yellow Sea is a sign that soon he will be on everyone's mind when discussing Korean cinema.
Movie follows Joong-ho (Yun-seok Kim), ex-detective now turned pimp in financial trouble as several of his working girls have recently disappeared without clearing their debts. While trying to track them down, he finds a clue that the missing girls were all called up by a same client whom one of his girls is meeting with right now...
The Chaser is inspired by actual serial killer who was murdering in South Korea until 2004.
As with Oldboy, Hollywood noticed how good it is and soon after release acquired rights for remake, so we can expect another take on this story sometime soon.
Great acting, brutal violence, it's a must see for any serial killer movie fan.
DVD from Amazon.