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

The City of Violence (2006)

Genre: Action, Crime, Drama

After his success of drama The Crying Fist, director Seung-wan Ryoo followed with this action packed crime drama The City of Violence (Jjakpae).

Four childhood friends meet up for the first time after a long time to attend a funeral of their friend Wang-jae (Kil-Kang Ahn), who has been murdered by a gang of street punks. They all have taken different roads in their lives, Tae-su (Doo-hong Jung) is a detective, Seok-hwan (played by director himself) is an ex-gangster, his brother Dong-hwan (Seok-yong Jeong) is a school teacher and Pil-ho (Beom-su Lee) is a big time mobster. Unsatisfied with official investigation results, Tae-su and Dong-hwan each investigate death of their friend. Soon clues lead them to land development project that both, Pi-ho and deceased Wang-jae had ties to, and now they have to confront their friend.

A really simple plot, that is explained and is quite obvious in early stages of movies, however you should not hold it against this movie, after all it's a great action film with some great martial arts demonstration in fights. Fights themselves are more like brawls, director never presents equal footing for main characters, they are always at disadvantage in numbers, and these numbers are huge.

Interesting camera work and more style than substance. Many are saying that Quentin Tarantino would approve of much that Seung-wan Ryoo is presenting, and I tend to agree, as there are many similarities.

If you like action movie with lot of fighting, driven by classic betrayal, that's not taking itself too seriously, it's right down you alley.

DVD from Amazon.
DVD (Ultimate Edition) from YesAsia.

Crying Fist (2005)

Genre: Drama

Crying Fist (Jumeogi unda) is written and directed by experienced Korean director - Seung-wan Ryoo. It's worth mentioning that his brother Seung-beom Ryu is playing main role, which is not their first collaboration. A quite talented family.

Film tells two separate tragic stories about two man, each of whom are struggling with problems presented by their life's, only common things between them are their failures and boxing, a dying sport in Korea.

One man is middle aged Olympic Silver medal winner Gang Tae-shik (portrayed by excellent actor Min-sik Choi), whose prime time and fame is long gone, struggling with financial trouble and trying to save his falling apart family. Earning money on streets part time, working as human punchbag...

Other one is adolescent, mean looking Yoo Sang-hwan (Seung-beom Ryu) who always makes trouble. His father tries hard to protect him, but eventually he lands in jail, where he is met by even bigger problems. However, a prison guard invites Yoo Sang-hwan to learn boxing, which he accepts thinking it will help release his anger against this unfair world.

Life and it's challenges...

Great drama with two strong lead actors, well worth a watch.

DVD from Amazon.
OST from YesAsia.