The Yellow Sea


The Yellow Sea
Directed by Na Hong-Jin
Opens December 2, Village East

Treating crime drama like a death cage tournament, this rousing, dark-hearted Korean epic doesn’t know quite when to stop once it begins, which is with an ethnically Korean Chinese cabbie (Ha Jung-woo) traveling to South Korea to find his errant wife and pay off her debt by killing a gangster. Nothing goes according to plan, of course, unleashing a cataract of whackings and wild chases, and setting two rabid crime bosses (Kim Yun-seok and Cho Seong-ha) at each other's throats, in an undulating blood festival of carving knives, hatchets and ka-thunking soup bones. (It’s a little tough to keep all of the doomed secondary characters straight, knee-deep as they are in henchmen corpses.) Writer-director Na Hong-Jin achieves a vibe of urban desolation right off the bat, and deepens the mayhem with acutely observed and charged details about illegal-immigrant life. If anything, Na’s film is too much of a good thing, exceeding credibility too often (the punching-bag hero is far too lucky—good and bad—and absorbs a hilarious amount of punishment) in its pursuit of despairing violence. But that’s the Korean way, and Na nails down the bottom feeder realism while slouching toward video-game hyperbole.

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Perhaps he took the Oriental equivalent of a 'Charles Atlas' course prior to setting out on his 'odyssey', because the hero's graduation from wimpish, luckless loser cabbie to ice-veined, resourceful, heavy-truck driving avenger over the course of a ten day period was just one of the more preposterous implausibilities in this one.

It was fun while it lasted, though, and I still have a broad smile on my face, 12 hours later.'flamboyant fixer' (Kim Yun-seok) stole the show for me, particularly the scenes where he displayed a remarkable efficiency in axe-killings.The funniest scene was 'the clean up' after the first of those scenes


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