Don't you just hate spoilers? I do, too. That's why I always try to include warnings. However, I sometimes ramble a bit too much here or there and maybe a few (or many) key plot points slip without me giving proper notice. So I'd like to include a blanket spoiler warning for the weary internet travelers of the world: Here There Be Spoilers. You've been warned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The Yellow Sea

It's been a minute since I've watched and reviewed any foreign or Asian cinema, but I just haven't been in a movie viewing mood for a while. Aside from Network and Skyfall, I haven't done any movie viewings this year. That's pretty unacceptable to me and I really want to end this year with thirty-five or more movie posts. I'm not quite sure how many I did last year, but I want to have at least thirty-five this year.

One movie that I had been curious about seeing for a while, but never really acted on the urge to watch it until last night was The Yellow Sea. Despite being directed by the same guy that directed The Chaser (as well as being a film recommended to me by someone who has better taste than I do), The Yellow Sea had to patiently wait in my Netflix queue. Of course, the best things in life are worth the wait. Unless you are a Denver Broncos fan, I guess.

The Yellow Sea is a really good movie that warrants multiple watchings for a variety of reasons. The first one that springs to mind is the pacing. In a way I'd liken The Yellow Sea to Led Zeppelin's song Stairway to Heaven in that it starts out slow and engrossing and gradually begins to build up steam before things get insane during the final third of the movie.

The first hour or so of this movie is largely a character piece about the main character Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo). Gu-nam is a joseonjok, a Korean (descendant or otherwise) living in China, and when he isn't driving cabs he is gambling. 

Unfortunately, Gu-nam's gambling puts him in too much debt and when he gets fired from his job his remaining pay gets eaten up by the debt collectors. 

Needing more money, Gu-nam gets in contact with a mob boss named Myun Jung-hak (Kim Yoon-seok) and gets an offer he can't refuse. If Gu-nam goes to South Korea and kills a businessman he will get the equivalent of ten thousand dollars. 

This proves convenient for Gu-nam because that means he can look for his wife, too. Gu-nam's wife had gone away to South Korea with a promise of sending money back, but Gu-nam hasn't heard back from her and suffers from nightmares about her having affairs. 

After getting smuggled out of China, Gu-nam begins his new role as hired killer/wife searcher. Of course, the life of a hired killer isn't easy. He only has ten days to make the hit if he doesn't want his mother and daughter harmed and getting to his target won't be easy. Looking for his wife could prove even harder. 

It isn't until the night of the hit that this film really flexes its muscles and the plot begins to unleash twist after twist all while moving at a million miles an hour. It takes a bit of suspension of disbelief because there are times when Gu-nam seems unkillable. The sheer amount of people chasing after Gu-nam after the hit goes wrong makes you wonder if Gu-nam really is a cab driver down on his luck or the Korean version of James Bond. The same goes for mob boss Myun Jung-hak who seems to be more like Michael Myers or Jason Voorhees than a thug with connections. 

There's also a surprising lack of gunfire in this movie. Everyone uses knives and axes instead. Not quite sure what the reasoning is (I'm sure there is one), but it makes for some brutal fight scenes and even more intense chase scenes. Hell, maybe that is the reason. A gun could stop a chase a lot quicker than an axe, but an axe just looks more menacing than a gun. 

The plot itself is a whirlwind. At the time I was watching I was a bit fatigued and had been up for too long and thought that maybe it was just me who sometimes felt lost. Apparently there are a few others out there who felt the same, though. All I can say is that you just have to kind of keep up with it and hopefully you'll get it. Watch the credits, too. There's a scene hidden there. 

With all of the action being thrown your way a lot of the plot twists can go a bit unnoticed. With this being a subtitled movie it can be even harder to follow. The dialog can be so crucial and sometimes pausing a scene here or there might be necessary to really get what some of the characters are saying. I like to think that I've gotten a bit better at keeping up with subtitles since I watch everything with subtitles anyway, but even I miss a few beats every now and then. While watching The Yellow Sea I did find myself pausing a bit more than usual to try and piece things together in my head.

Still, The Yellow Sea is an excellent film. I promise you it will reward your patience as well as your inner bloodlust. Can't recommend it enough if you like crime, action, and/or a good story. 

1 comment:

  1. Sounds good. I'm going to put this in my queue immediately. I still haven't got to the Korean movie you reviewed a while back. Now that football season is done, I can plow through my queue.

    Also, look for the sequel, The Yellow Snow (sorry, I just can't help myself sometimes)