Arms trafficker Hyuk and Young-chun are practically brothers and nothing can separate them. When the two managed to escape from North Korea, they left behind Hyuk's younger brother Chul. ... See full summary »
After losing both her parents, Failan (Cecilia Cheung) emmigrates to Korea to seek her only remaining relatives. Once she reaches Korea, she finds out that her relatives have moved to ... See full summary »
Jo Pil-seong, a rural detective, is an unhappy husband, often blamed by his older wife for gambling. Despite her being hard on him, he steals money from her to bet on bull butting. ... See full summary »
Four friends bound by destiny and unbeatable in the dark world. When a casino attack goes wrong as a result of betrayal, fate turns them into enemies. Now, forced to aim the gun at each other's hearts, their unavoidable battle begins.
Arms trafficker Hyuk and Young-chun are practically brothers and nothing can separate them. When the two managed to escape from North Korea, they left behind Hyuk's younger brother Chul. Hyuk can never shake off the guilt as his family was punished for his treason and his mother died in prison. Three years later, Chul finally makes his way to South Korea and join the police force. Hyuk tries to earn the trust and love of his younger brother, but abandonment and betrayal are hard things to forget. Things come to a head when Young-chun pulls Hyuk into doing one last gig for the gang. It happens to be the case that Officer Chul is in charge of. The three brothers meet again one final time. Written by
tricked into seeing this, and it was... not bad, not very good, just "decent"
A Better Tomorrow - for some of us cinephiles the film's name brings to mind images of guys (i.e. Chow Yun-Fat in his break-out role and performance that made him a star in Hong Kong) in trench-coats and ray-ban sunglasses with big friggin guns firing away in blazing battles staged with a balletic precision and melodramatic (or just operatic) sleight of hand by John Woo. It was a classic unto itself, if not as polished as The Killer or as crazy as Hard Boiled with just as much (or more) genuine heart to its dramatic acting and story. So surprised I was then to see that my local cineplex- which often gets Asian films to cater to the the nearby town that is predominantly Korean- that 'A Better Tomorrow' would be coming to that theater for a two-week run. What better way to see Woo's film, I thought, than on a big screen like one of the ones at my local theater. I was even told (perhaps misleadingly to buy a ticket and/or concessions) that it was the 80's Woo film, albeit "Korean". Hmm, I thought, is it Korean? I thought it was from HK, like Woo's films usually are, but maybe it's dubbed in Korean for the community... hmm...
And no, lo and behold, it was really a remake (I can tell this as not an accident as Woo himself is credited here as exec producer). I decided to let the movie speak for itself; maybe someone would riff of of Woo's film while putting his own distinct take on the material. Suffice to say it's not anything to write home about. It takes the ingredients of the original story- a tale of brothers and betrayal, cops and gangsters, and a showdown at a big dock/shipping yard (that last part was the one thing that really stuck out most among set- pieces, and it's recreated here)- and just makes it... ordinary. It's a thriller that has a few decent performances (I couldn't tell you exactly who as I left before the credits rolled, albeit the main gangster villain reminded me of the villain from Oldboy, and it's that's the case then very good work there by a proved guy). It has a few flashy-violent scenes. Most memorable for me some time after the movie's end is when a character, after shooting up a massage parlor loaded with bad guys and with only a minor wound in his shoulder, walks away with sunglasses on, trench-coat on, and is trying to look super-cool... and then gets shot through the knee and his cool is taken down a peg.
But there's not really much to invest in any one character, and no actor here is like a Chow Yun-Fat or even a Ti-Lung, who were two major assets to the success of Woo's film as real actors with real star appeal. The guys here are workmanlike, easy to see how they go through the motions, and the director mostly lets the music (which even for an Asian crime movie) go way over the top to try to direct emotion from the audience when what's there should be enough, very stock stuff. If one has never seen the original Woo film, I could imagine some perfunctory enjoyment coming from the material, but the problem I had (and perhaps this is somewhat my fault and happens sometimes with Korean movies) was I couldn't keep track of some of the principle characters. I lost track of who was who in the first half hour of the movie, and had to be reminded when a character said someone's name. It finally got into a good groove once it flashed forward to three years later, and a character with a particular limp is distinctive. But the story doesn't always feel very closely knit together.
There's nothing in it that is so offensive as to want to leave the theater. There's also nothing that grabs me in and makes me rush out to tell friends who would perk up at a solid HK or Korean or whatever crime movie with big emotions and bigger gun battles. I can't really speak to the director's past work to draw upon comparison- one film by Hae-sung Song, Failan, is unavailable in the US though touted by reviewers on IMDb- but he doesn't push the material into anything very interesting. It might be commendable that the film doesn't slavishly imitate the original film, but then what else is there? Just general competency? A few cool looking characters in a gun battle or some tears shed at just the right flash of the cut of film? A Better Tomorrow 2010 most depressingly does what a good many American remakes do: takes the core ingredients, gives it a 21st century sheen... and it's generally just dull.
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