Train to Busan (2016)

Genre: Zombies, Thriller, Action














Train to Busan is a South Korean zombie apocalypse thriller that come out in summer, typical time for summer blockbusters, and what a blockbuster it is. Directed and written by seasoned director Sang-ho Yeon, mostly know for his short films and animated features. The movie took box office like the storm, as the viewers stormed theaters, reching more than 10 million viewers, which is a fifth of entire population of South Korea.
Plot follows always-busy divorced fund manager Seok Woo (Yoo Gong) and his young daughter Soo-an. As a birthday gift to Soo-an, after realizing last second, how little time he spends with her, Seok Woo leaves his busy work behind and decides to make a trip to visit her mother in Busan.

As the train they are taking is about to leave the station, a bloodied girl steps on board. And as the train slowly departs from the station, chaos starts to happen around, leaving unsuspecting passengers, Seok-Woo, his daughter, a bloodied girl and bunch of other interested characters on train, onward to it's destination.


It's well shot, well acted, a bit silly at a times, but nonetheless a fun and entertaining summer blockbuster about zombies. Zombies that are realized and portrayed on screen in a quite interesting, energetic, way. It contains a lot of cliches and sometimes silly plot devices, but it doesn't make it less entertaining, but you shouldn't watch it expecting deep cinematic experience. Rarely summer blockbusters have them.

It's energetic movie, with some underlying political and social commentaries, fun characters, great cast with little time spent idle. Well worth a watch if you like survival movies about zombies.



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

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

Voice of a Murderer (2007)

Genre: Drama, Thriller














Voice of a Murderer (Geu nom moksori) is attempt at crime genre from a director who is mostly known for his romance and drama movies - Jin-pyo Park, and it's quite a successful attempt at that, a highly grossing and recognized at many movie festivals effort.

Han Kyung-bae (Kyung-gu Sol) is a famous TV news anchor, who enjoys his fame and because of his success is preparing to take large steps forward to significantly advance his career. While all of his focus is shifted to work, his family, a beautiful wife and not so perfect son, is put on hold.



It all changes when one evening his son doesn't come back home from playground. A phone rings, and conversation begins that will control Han Kyung-bae and his wife's life for many tiring and sorrowful days.

In a similar manner (especially the ending if I might point it out) to remarkable Memories of Murder this film tells a story based on a true events that happened in South Korea. Movie deals with kidnapping and devastating emotional effect it produces on family members, parents in particular, also touching on ineptness of police force that is commonly displayed in oh so many Korean movies.


It may not contain masterful execution and brilliant touch for visuals that director of Memories of Murder Bong Joon-ho and his team posses, but nonetheless it's a solid and suspenseful thriller. Backed up by really solid cast choice of talented Kyung-gu Sol as a father in distress.

A good movie for fans of crime genre, a bit on a long side, but well worth a watch.

DVD from Amazon

Yellow Sea (2010)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














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.
A little less suspenseful and perhaps a bit prolonged, than it's predecessor, it's a wonderful, character oriented thriller, with beautiful cinematography great performances and lot of traditional gore and violence that usually accompanies shady characters in movies.

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 (2011)

Genre: Crime, Mystery, Thriller














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

Mother (2009)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














From star director of The Host and Memories of Murder, Joon-ho Bong, comes another masterpiece of Korean drama - Mother (Madeo). Multiple award winner, for best direction, best lead performance by veteran Korean actress Hye-ja Kim, and even official South Korean submission for Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film at the 82nd Academy Awards.

A mother (Hye-ja Kim) and her son (Bin Won) live in small Korean city. She's widow with no support left with her mentally challenged son who has severe aggression problems. Struggling to get by, she is illegally performing acupuncture procedures on local woman. One day a body of murdered local school girl is found on rooftop in the middle of town.

Local police in hurry, based on circumstantial evidence arrest her son, soon confession is forced out of him, and he is convicted of murder and faces to spend rest of his life in mental hospital. Mother however knows that her son couldn't perform such cruel act, and sets to find the real culprit on her own, causing quite a commotion in this ,as it appears, not so calm city. She is set to prove her son's innocence by any means necessary. 

As with Memories of Murder Joon-ho Bong takes another look into mentality of small towns. He skillfully plays with such forces as maternal love, commitment to the cause of family. Filled with mystery and tension this movie doesn't let it's grip till the moment credits roll.


If you have seen excellent crime thriller The Man from Nowhere you might (or might not) recognize young Korean superstar Bin Won, whose role there of hardened special forces agent is complete antithesis of his portrayal of Mother's son in this movie.

Currently director Joon-ho Bong is working on his Hollywood debut, science fiction thriller Snow Piercer, set to be released in October, 2013.

Powerful performance by lead actress, beautiful cinematography, exceptional directing, twists here and there, and long lasting emotional residue. What more is needed for great drama? Must see.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon
Blu-ray | DVD (UK) from YesAsia

Silmido (2003)

Genre: Drama, Thriller














After his blockbuster Public Enemy that was huge success, director Woo-Suk Kang got green lighted for another big project, Silmido. Yet another South Korean movie that draws it's plot from tensions between both neighbor Korea's, and sure enough it did well in box office. But common theme doesn't mean bad movie, definitely not in this case.

In 1968. group of North Korean special forces consisting of 31 man, infiltrated South Korea with mission to assassinate president Park Chung-hee. They failed. However this event shook South Korean intelligence agency to it's core, and decision was made to answer North using similar means.

On Silmido island a special force is being formed to accomplish this task. Under the name "Unit 684" 31 criminals, some from death row, have been recruited and begin their training to infiltrate North. In 1971, when unit is finally ready to commence their mission, there are changes in political climate in top layers of government, peace talks are priority, and decision is made to eliminate Unit 684. But before this order is carried out, there is revolt on island.


Movie is based on true story, and you can read more about it here, which is quite interesting piece of history, as existence of this unit and it's mission was kept secret until beginning of 90's.

After release, and huge popularity, South Korean government officials were vocal about how film depicts cruelty that government subjected it's soldiers. However it needs to be understood that this is a movie, and not documentary, and it's to be expect from director to make it more dramatic for the sake of entertainment.

Either way, this is really good thriller, that's worth a watch.

DVD from Amazon.
DVD (R2) from YesAsia.

Joint Security Area (2000)

Genre: Drama, Thriller, War














Before Vengeance trilogy for director Chan-wook Park, there was Joint Security Area (Gongdong gyeongbi guyeok JSA), a movie that skyrocketed his career, and since then he has become one of the most accomplished and critically acclaimed directors in South Korea. Not to forget the cast of the movie, lead actors Byung-hun Lee and Kang-ho Song, while both had rich previous experience in acting, but nothing come close to success of Joint Security Area, which gained huge recognition and immediate status of superstars for them, guaranteeing successful career for next decade.


On border between South and North Korea's, known as Korean Demilitarized Zone, two North Korean border guards get shot. Sgt. Lee Soo-hyeok (Byung-hun Lee) is considered to be guilty in causing this event. Both countries give their own narrative of what happened, South states that he was abducted and killed his abductors while attempting to escape, while North says that he made a deliberate attack on their soldiers. To find the truth,  investigation by Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission is launched to discover what did occur during that fatal night.

A masterpiece thriller from Chan-wook Park that touches sensitive relationships between both, once united, countries. Forbidden friendship, political plots and secrets from the past come into play. Suspenseful story of separation by senseless ideology, ideology that hides actual human beings so deep underneath.

One of the best movies that had come out of Korea in my opinion. Recommended to everyone.

DVD from Amazon.
DVD from YesAsia.

No Mercy (2010)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














No Mercy (Yongseoneun Eupda) is another fantastic, yet unknown for most gem from Korean cinema, and a great debut of director Hyoung-Jun Kim, strengthened by good cast of experienced actors and beautiful cinematography.

Forensic pathologist Kang Min-ho (Kyung-gu Sol) is involved in investigation of a serial killer who is known for decapitating his victims. Soon police finds a suspect, odd environmental activist Lee Seong-ho (Seung-beom Ryu), who doesn't confess but clearly is somehow involved, he then starts to play a strange game with Kang Min-ho, whose daughter untimely appears to be missing.

Another somber thriller about serial killers in best traditions of Korean movies, as a highlight featuring some quite disturbing and revealing scenes from daily work of medical examiner. Add to that masterfully crafted ending that that was a huge surprise for me personally and you got a winner. 

Overall No Mercy really reminded of  Fincher's Se7en, which I think is a golden standard of serial killer movies, and it's a good thing.

If you want suspenseful, revengeful and intense thriller about serial killers, No Mercy delivers.

DVD from Amazon.
DVD (First Press Edition R3) | DVD (R3) from YesAsia.

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.

I Saw the Devil (2010)

Genre: Crime, Horror, Drama, Thriller











I Saw the Devil (Akmareul boatda) is movie by one of my favorite directors - Jee-woon Kim, featuring, as he often does in his movies, two of the finest actors Korea has to offer Byung-hun Lee and Min-sik Choi in a grotesque and suspenseful thriller involving serial killer(s).

Kim Soo-hyeon (Byung-hun Lee) works a secret agent in South Korean government, his fiance is kidnapped and brutally murdered by serial killer. Using his connections and skills he quickly comes upon Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), but instead of unleashing his revenge right there on the spot, he decides to bring prolonged suffering against the man who took his love away, to show him what amount of pain one has to suffer after such a loss. A cat and mouse game begins. But is it a game worth playing for Kim Soo-yeon?


This movies is driven with pure, distilled vengeance, a theme that is really common and well portrayed in Korean cinema. Both actors are great for their roles, you can see pure evil in the eyes of  Min-sik Choi character, and how good and evil starts to stir and mix somewhere deep inside eyes of his adversary played by Byung-hun Lee.

Prior to theatrical release in South Korea it was twice refused acceptable rating for showing in cinemas, forcing Jee-woon Kim to cut around 90 seconds of footage before it was accepted. That's how disturbing this movies is.

As with The Chaser, it's another masterpiece about serial killers from Korea. If you enjoy movies like Se7en, Vengeance trilogy and such, there is no reason why you should't watch this one.

Highly recommended.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.
Bly-ray (UK) | DVD (UK) from YesAsia.

The Man From Nowhere (2010)


Genre: Action, Crime, Thriller











The Man From Nowhere (Ajeossi) was biggest and certainly most popular movie of 2010 in South Korea, and currently probably is one of the most well known Korean films of past few years in west. Written and directed by Jeong-beom Lee who had already proved himself as capable director in his debut Cruel Winter Blues from 2006.

Plot summary is simple, a quiet pawnshop keeper with a violent past takes on a drug and organ trafficking ring in hope of saving the child who is his only friend.


Story itself is quite the cliche of action genre, but don't be discouraged by that, whats important is the raw energy and drive that this movie is accompanied by. Young movie star Bin Won who just year ago played shy and quiet boy in fantastic drama Mother, now takes complete makeover and becomes action movie superhero delivering spectacular performance as a powerful lead.

If you are a fan of thrillers that have likable and cool male characters, lots of action, and in general are really stylish, you will love it. If you like movies like Man on Fire, Léon: The Professional, Taken you will love it.

I do love it. It has everything that makes a great action movies. Everything.

A must see.

And Hollywood doesn't sleep, remake right were quickly acquired.

Blu-ray | DVD from Amazon.

2009 Lost Memories (2002)

Genre: Action, Drama, Mystery, Sci-fi, Thriller













If you are into market for science fiction, action blockbuster, 2009 Lost Memories is right down your alley. Directed by Si-myung Lee, it took more than 2 years of production, and cost around 7 million dollars to film this movie, which is a huge budget for a Korean film, making it most expensive movie of the year.

Set in alternative future, year 2009, where Japan has annexed Korea, fought and won World War 2 on allied side, and is a super power on global stage. Two Japanese Bureau of Investigation agents Masayuki Sakamoto (Dong-gun Jang) and Shojiro Saigo (Toru Nakamura) are sent to investigate incident at art museum, where underground anti government organization Hureisenjin had taken hostages during exhibition of antiques organized by Inoue Foundation. Investigating this terror act, agents found clues that point how Seoul might really not be a part of Japan, and how reality they know might not be the "right" one. Maybe even the history can be changed?



Quite clever plot with good flow that keeps entertaining every minute won't leave you bored while watching this spectacular fight for the future. Fans of action films should not be scared by excessive sci-fi elements, movie while set in alternative future is grounded in reality, so don't expect flying cars and lazer blasters.

A quality blockbuster with interesting look on history, great action and fun sci-fi elements.

DVD from Amazon.
DVD from YesAsia.

A Bloody Aria (2006)

Genre: Drama, Thriller














A Bloody Aria (Guta-yubalja-deul)  is lesser know Korean film from director Shin-yeon Won.

On a day trip through the countryside, aspiring opera singer In-jeong (Ye-ryeon Cha) flees to the woods to escape the advances of her colleague professor Park Young-sun (Byung-joon Lee), and runs into a disturbed group of country-bred thugs. In-jeong finds herself reunited with Yeong-sun and it slowly becomes clear that the pair is being held captive to participate in the gang's sadistic mind games.


While slightly less disturbing, this movie reminded me of famous american thriller Deliverance, where main protagonists fall into similar situation where usual laws of society stop working, and another set of laws kicks in. Recommended for anyone who enjoys movies with a lot of suspense in the air.

DVD from Amazon.


The Chaser (2008)


Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














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.

Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














As a final movie of Chan-wook Park's Vengeance trilogy (movies are not connected by plot, only by theme, so viewing order is not important!), Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (Chinjeolhan geumjassi) is likely the darkest one.

After thirteen and half years in prison for kidnapping and murdering boy, a crime she did not commit, Geum-ja Lee (Yeong-ae Lee) is released. With help of her former inmates from prison she plots her gruesome revenge against real killer, kindergarden English teacher Mr. Baek (played by Choi Min-sik).



Movie highly praised for it's spectacular cinematography.

There is Director Cut of this movie called "Fade to Black and White version", where colors slowly fade to black and white as the movie progresses, as if adopting to the general mood of it's characters, really enhancing experience. In west it can be found on Vengeance Trilogy Blu-ray.


A must see for any Korean movie fan!


Blu-ray | DVD
Vengeance trilogy Blu-ray from Amazon.

Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (2002)

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller














Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance (Boksuneun naui geot) is first movie of directors Chan-wook Park's Vengeance trilogy (movies are not connected by plot, only by theme, so viewing order is not important!), following his previous commercially successful and well received title Joint Security Area.

Story about Ryo (Ha-kyun Shin), a deaf worker with sister who needs a kidney transplant. Unable to help her by conventional means, he meets illegal organ dealers, and the criminals propose that he gives them his kidney and ten million Won to obtain a kidney suitable for his sister. Ryu accepts the trade, but he does not have money to pay for the surgery. His radical girlfriend convinces him to kidnap the daughter of his former employer, Park (Kang-ho Song) and extort money from him. However when least expected, a tragedy happens, which sets this story on path of vengeance.

Brilliant movie and a great start of a trilogy. Highly recommended.

Blu-ray | DVD
Vengeance trilogy Blu-ray from Amazon.

Oldboy (2003)


Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery














Oldboy (Oldeuboi) probably is the most famous and well known Korean movie in the west, which has attract many new viewers to Asian cinema. It won many awards in Europe, including Grand Prix of the Jury at 57th Cannes Film Festival. As with many Asian films, currently there are plans for Hollywood remake to be directed by Spike Lee.


It's second movie in Chan-wook Park's so called Vengeance trilogy (movies are not connected by plot, only by theme, so viewing order is not important!).

Story follows man (played by brilliant Korean actor Choi Min-sik) who has been held captive in small apartment for 10 years, and reasons of this imprisonment are unknown to him. Once he is set free, he goes onto quest of vengeance to find his captors. Quite brutal, even shocking to some, yet beautiful movie.

A must see for any movie fan!


Blu-ray | DVD
Vengeance trilogy Blu-ray from Amazon.