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The story of a cab driver in Yanji City, a region between North Korea, China and Russia. His wife goes to Korea to earn money, but he doesn't hear from her since in 6 months. He plays mah-jong to make some extra cash, but this only makes his life worse; but then he meets a hitman who proposes to turn his life around by repaying his debt and reuniting with his wife, just for one hit. Written by
An absolutely spectacular Korean thriller that a) does everything perfectly and b) engages and involves the viewer like few other films. South Korea is currently one of the hottest places in the world for film-makers; it was only last year that I saw the excellent MAN FROM NOWHERE for the first time, a movie that soon became a favourite. THE YELLOW SEA follows suit. Although it's a two-and-a-half-hour movie, it grips you from the outset and never lets you go.
If only Western cinema would take as many risks and gambles as this film does. It's not an easy watch; pretty much the entire cast is populated by criminals and murderers, and even the protagonist is a man who thinks nothing of taking on a contract killing job. Yet he becomes a character you root for, purely because he's less evil than the others out to get him; he appears to be a man of his word, at least as far as we can tell, and that counts for something in a dog-eat-dog world.
The film reunites the director and two stars of the excellent serial killer flick THE CHASER but THE YELLOW SEA is a different beast entirely: a wronged man-style thriller if you will. It packs a great deal of thoroughly exciting chase and action sequences into the running time; inspired by THE BOURNE SUPREMACY, each of these employs the shaky-cam to excellent effect, where you never miss out on the action. This is also an exceptionally violent film packed with knife and hatchet fights and brutal slayings that sit alongside more Hollywoodised foot and car chases.
The actors are excellent in their parts; so believable that you never question them for a second. Ha Jung-woo is particularly good because he never does anything to make you sympathise with him for a moment, and yet you end up doing so anyway; he's just a small-time guy who gets out of his depth and has to use his ingenuity to survive. His journey is one of the most gritty and realistic I've ever seen in film; it doesn't get any more engrossing than this. Kim Yun-seok, in contrast, playing people-smuggler Myun, is larger than life and his character's ability to survive against overwhelming odds is similarly profound. Beautifully shot and expertly scripted, The Yellow Sea is an example of cinema as it should be; if only more films were like this!
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