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Reviews & Ratings for
The Yellow Sea More at IMDbPro »Hwanghae (original title)

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121 out of 132 people found the following review useful:

Some historical background about this movie and more

Author: Jake Kong from Republic of Korea
21 February 2011

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

During World War II, lots of Koreans are forced to leave their home land to avoid the brutal oppression of Japanese military empire. Some are drifted to Soviet Union, and some are moved to far eastern border between China and Korea. Named after their former nations name, Cho-Sun, the people who settled in China is called Cho-Sun-Jok (Cho-Sun tribes). As you know, after liberation from Japanese military empire at the end of World War II, north and south Korea begins terrible war and still sporadic battle is going on at their border. North Koreans build their own frantic communist-religious nation and south Koreans build a nation based on capitalism. By the geological and political environment, these Cho-Sun-Jok have close relation with north Korea but the booming economy of south Korea lures them. Also south Korean economy needs these cheap labor, today many Cho-Sun-Jok are re-immigrated to south Korea. But the huge social and economical difference between south Korea and Cho- Sun-Jok bring out many problems like organized crime, drug and prostitution.

The movie tells the story about three major characters. Gu-Nam, a desperate Cho-Sun-Jok taxi driver whose wife is moved to Korea for work and now missing, Myun-Ga (Mr. Myun), a Cho-Sun-Jok organized crime tycoon who sent Gu-Nam to Seoul to hit a wealthy south Korean with one-way ticket. And Mr. Kim who ordered hit to Myun-Ga. Abandoned and betrayed, Gu-Nam runs for life to find a way to go back to China and to his daughter, all of these is melted, surmised and finally run to a catastrophic ending.

Director Na successfully build a reputation as a director with his first mega-hit move "Chaser". In this film his cinematic power is more escalated to a new level. Actors who played lead roles in "Chaser" also did the role again. Especially the character Myun-Ga, played by Yun-Seok, Kim is the most brutal villain in the movie I've ever seen.

I think what current Korean movies differ from other nations, cultures is the depiction of blur between good and evil. In Korean movies, the really really bad guy have his own reason for his action, and good and innocent victim shows more insanity that can ruin himself and others.

Really worthy for your two hours of golden weekend. Two thumbs up.

P.S. The title "Hwanghea" means yellow(Hwang), sea(Hae). It is a strait between eastern China and western Korea peninsula.

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33 out of 40 people found the following review useful:

shockingly good, well directed, well performed

Author: rightwingisevil from United States
4 January 2012

another near perfect thriller out of south Korea. i don't know what and how most movie festivals giving out award, but all movies directed by this director and screenplays written by this specific several movies directed by this specific director, the screenplay writer(s), both should have received the highest honors of awards. based upon my forty years movie viewing experience, i've never seen anything like these kind of well written, well directed and well performed korean movies. these movies mentioned by other reviewers are just on different level, making hollwood's films in similar genre like worthless garbage. watching every one of these movies just became a psychiatric treatment, the perfect and ultimate catharsis to drain the stress caused by the financial burden and bore-to-death day in and day out urban living, because nobody could be more down and out like the main characters portrayed in these movies, and not any common person, you or me, could be less lucky like these characters faced in their lives. korean movie thrillers are just so uniquely different from other countries, in my opinion, they are definitely on a higher level, higher than where the Hollywood, bollywood, Japanese, Chinese stand. because every time when i finished a korean movie like 'the yellow sea', 'the man from nowhere', 'i saw the devil'....i felt the stress that constantly burdened on my mind and shoulders would go away temporarily, i actually felt better and more alive. no other country's movies could have such catharsis-like effect.

highly recommended to those who got the similar burden like me.

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29 out of 41 people found the following review useful:

One of the best thrillers ever, another hit from Korea

Author: daffy201004 from United States
18 July 2011

If you enjoy The Chaser or The man from nowhere, You will absolutely love this film. In fact, if you love thrillers...this is for you. The villain, is probably one of the worst villains ever, is also very funny. The main character who has questionable orals is still very likable and found myself rooting for him. The basic plot in one sentence is pretty much an assassination of a professor gone wrong. The main character find himself being chased by the police, the villain, and someone else (which I won't reveal or else it will be a spoiler.) The action scenes are so brutal but realistic. The scenes are fast and real tense. There twists are so good and fitting for this thriller. The action will keep you on the edge of your seat but your mind will be asking a few questions which will be all answered if you pay attention close enough. All the actors were excellent. The guy who played the villain was the "good" guy in the The Chaser. He played his character so well, I didn't even recognize him. His speech, mannerisms, and expressions had me believe his character. I also loved the ending which could be debated.

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21 out of 31 people found the following review useful:

Another bleak offering from Na Hong-Jin

Author: mute99 from London
3 July 2011

featuring the same trio of director and leading men from the outstanding "The Chaser" Na Hong-Jin gives us a bleak slice of Korean life. All of the characters are unappealing and unsympathetic, but especially the violent loser Gu-Nam, who is sent on a murderous mission to Seoul by people trafficking gangster Myun-Ga. But despite Gu-Nams hopelessness you still root for him to survive and win despite the odds stacked against him. Na has crafted a flawed masterpiece from these broken elements, with plenty of his trademarks from The Chaser, like the outstanding cinematography (apart from some of the later chase scenes which seem to have been shot on a horrible video camera) and unrelenting violence. I would recommend it very highly.

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13 out of 16 people found the following review useful:

Grittily realistic and altogether superb

Author: Leofwine_draca from United Kingdom
19 September 2012

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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14 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

A Yellow Stream All Over Hollywood

Author: frankenbenz from Sydney, Australia
7 March 2013

I can't remember the last time Hollywood offered me anything mind-blowing. An industry now controlled by bankers for shareholders, even filmmaking geniuses like Martin Scorsese have been reduced to making pointless kids movies. Not even the so-called independent cinema in the US has been spared Hollywood's fixation with the bottom line, where the few table scraps left are thrown to a dwindling numbers of original voices still relevant. If ever we needed another Easy Rider inspired industry revolt, then now is the time.

With American cinema (not unlike the country itself) irrelevant and hopelessly behind the times, the only option North American cinephiles have, is to go abroad. One of the countries that's long since surpassed American cinema for shock and originality is South Korea. And it's not like Hollywood is oblivious, they're actually cannibalizing SK cinema by remaking Korean gems into pointless American knockoffs. The latest SK gem ripe for reproduction is Hong-jin Na's The Yellow Sea (Hwanghae).

Like Ravel's Bolero, The Yellow Sea understands the patient reward of crescendo: starting slow and building to a fevered climax. By the end of this, we're left with what seems impossible for an epic 156 minute film: wanting more. With the exception of one car chase marred by phony green screen cutaways (see the video below), the breakneck action, extreme violence and hyper-realistic gore is virtuosic. Guns noticeably absent, whooshing knives, devastating hatchets and the blunt trauma of gnawed animal bones provide The Yellow Sea with brutal, bloody and refreshingly lo-tech weapons of choice, a grim example of how Hollywood and it's obsession with appeasing demographics can't compete.

But The Yellow Sea is much more than just a knife brandishing ballet that hearkens back to early 90s HK bullet ballets, it's exceptionally well written and acted with none of HK cinema's clichéd melodrama. The characters here are many shades of grey, avoiding archetypal absolutes, allowing us to identify with and like even the worst of the worst. All of the action is beautifully composed with kinetic, hand-held photography that compliments the bleak color palette, which results in a gritty and ultra-realistic film, not unlike so many American masterworks from the 1970s.

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16 out of 22 people found the following review useful:

It is good but could be better

Author: Ramuna from Jakarta
5 November 2012

First I have to admit that nowadays the more I watched Korean movies, the more I appreciate their good work with a stretch range of variance themes. For right now I am in a state that I will pick a recommended Korean movie over the mega budget Hollywood flick any day of the week. Since my first introductory of Korean movie more or less a decade ago with the like of 'My Sassy Girl', 'Sorum', 'Memories of Murder', 'Oldboy', etc, things only get better.

And with 'The Yellow Sea' I can't help but to once again utter my sincere compliment. The movie basically divided into four segments each related to the situation of our protagonist. The protagonist himself is a grey character between evil and good, which didn't come as surprise, as many Korean movies has done a lot deal with such a character, take 'Oldboy' or 'I am a Father'.

The first segment is meant to tell us about the dark and depressing background of the protagonist and the motive following his grim decision for the audience to tolerate. The second segment is what followed after and I assured you it will thrill and hold you at the edge of your chair. Very pacey and full of suspense that the second segment itself could stand as a suspenseful modern noir, of which Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder will nod in full agreement.

But I think what followed after the second segment is where the movie slipped over. Director Na Hong Jin (from 'The Chaser') tried everything to provide a decent thriller, but maybe he just tried too hard. The way he prolonged the movie and transformed it into multi characters rather than kept focusing on the main character, the die hard character in bloody melee combat, the car flipping and car chasing scenes which was superb and not inferior to that Hollywood's made, those were all but just not add up to the movie's substantial but rather blurred the entire purpose of the movie.

If the movie is intended as a powerful thriller drama then it surely slipped in the latter half of the movie. A decent thriller drama can not be stuffed with too much action flick I guess. Nevertheless I still like the movie very much and would like to recommend it to all Asian(or Korean) movie enthusiast. Only that I really wish the director made the movie only three quarters as long, stayed focus on the protagonist's gloomy campaign and ended it up the way it was. It would be a dark and a too powerful movie instead.

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9 out of 9 people found the following review useful:

Gu-Nam, hired to do a hit by Myun-Ga, soon is caught in a gang war between Myun-Ga and a South Korean gang

Author: msroz from United States
5 March 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

I watched the 140-minute version of "The Yellow Sea".

The acting is top-notch. The actors have a definite screen presence and give seamless performances. The recreations, set designs, production designs, and film editing are all top-notch. There are several chase scenes and fight scenes that are also very well staged, even if photographed at times with intentional shakiness.

The first half of the story was easy to follow, engaging and suspenseful. A Korean taxi driver (Gu-Nam) who is desperate because of his debts is induced to travel from a region in China to Seoul in order to kill someone ("The Professor") for a gang boss (Myun-Ga). We are with him all the way during his harrowing trip by sea and as he encounters the difficulties of identifying and killing his target. Before he can kill the man, the man's chauffeur does him in, having been hired by another gang boss. They had a conflict over a woman. Meanwhile the taxi-driver is hunting for his wife in Seoul, as she had gone there some years earlier to make some money to send back to him.

The second half of the story is harder to follow and more complicated. Myun-Ga doesn't pay Gu-Nam and he travels with his gang to Seoul where he horns in on the local gang boss. They end up chasing Gu-Nam, as are the police. The exact reasons for their rivalries and enmities elude me, but I think the main motivation for Myun-Ga's traveling to Seoul is that the entire hit seems to have gone wrong. His hired killer didn't do the hit and someone else did. Hence, gang pecking order comes into play. This has to be straightened out. Subsequently, the Seoul gang leader orders a hit on Myun-Ga, and that creates a big gang war, fought with knives mainly but also axes and clubs.

The police have attempted to catch Gu-Nam but they are bad at their job, smashing up their cars, shooting one another, being outrun, and allowing him to escape. The character of the picture in the second half becomes more of an action thriller than a neonoir crime story.

There are three main women in the story. One is Gu-Nam's wife. She had taken up with a Japanese fish-monger. Another is seen at critical moments at the murdered man's (Professor's) apartment and a bank. She is his wife. The third woman is the mistress of both the Professor and the Seoul gang boss.

The focus on knives made me wonder if this is something cultural or a fad. The Korean movie "Friend" also involved a lot of material on knives and fighting with knives.

Yon-seok Kim played Myun-Ga as a very self-possessed man who is cool under pressure. He also makes wisecracks and is impatient with others. Without his acting and this character, the movie would have gone flat. His fights are something to behold. In a way, he has some of that coolness of Bruce Lee.

Jung-woo Ha played Gu-Nam as a cunning, wiry, fast-thinking and athletic man. He may not have had luck gambling, but he had luck in his escapes. He has a lot of pluck in difficult circumstances, so it's easy to identify with him.

There's a lot of grimy scenes and a lot of blood in this movie, but this is not unique to it. Quite a few modern movies of this type have it. I don't find the blood bothersome. On the other hand, I don't think it adds much either.

There came a point where I thought that the car-foot chase was overdone and disturbed the character of the movie. There was an escape scene that did the same. There also came a point where I noticed all the jiggling of the camera, which, as in the Bourne movie, made it hard to follow the action. Directors will probably bury this gimmick soon.

I felt after awhile that the thematic material was being lost or obscured by the excesses in the action. This is the main reason for not rating the film more highly. It lacks the focus of theme and coherence of style that mark a work of higher quality. Mind you, the picture is very good and the director is very capable and capable of better work. Let's hope that he realizes his potential in the very challenging art of making movies.

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7 out of 8 people found the following review useful:

"Some lines were never meant to be crossed"

Author: Yogesh Prabhu from India
9 September 2013

It's time to fete our Director Na Hong-jin for making a masterpiece like this. This is about his noir thriller "The Yellow Sea". His second film after a bang like The Chaser. The main success of this movie is for it's fast screenplay and some nail biting chasing scenes. Inspite of its long running time the movie tightly grips us during most of its running time.

Coming to story, The protagonist Goo-nam(Ha Jeong-woo) is a Joseon(Chinese of North Korean descent)is a taxi driver living in Yenji, China. Goo-nam's wife went to South Korea for work to lift their family. She promised that she would send money to him, but there has been no money sent by her, let alone any news from her. Goo-nam really loved her and meanwhile tortured by the possibility of her infidelity in his dream, but that is not his only problem. He has lot of debts including his wife's travel fare. He tries to solve his problem with gambling, but that makes his situation worse.The debt collector often visits and questions his pride.

After his fierce attitude in the gambling bar, Goo-nam is noticed by a local Korean mob boss/dog seller Mr. Myeon(Kim Yoon-seok). Myeon has a plan to solve his problem. If he goes to Seoul and kills somebody, his debt problem will be solved. Giving his daughter in the safe hands(his mother)he agrees to work. Under the instructions from Myeon, he illegally entered South Korea with other Korean Chinese.

He arrives at some coastal area without much problem. He goes into Seoul while not being noticed by the law enforcement. He stays in a lousy motel room. He checks out the place where his target lives. He is clever enough to devise a good plan while spying on the daily pattern of the target during the night. He also goes around Seoul for getting any clues about the whereabouts of his wife. There is not much time left, but he still cannot find her. The time is short, and he must do the job as demanded. It's a now or never situation,the night at the freezing cold Goo-nam anxiously waits for his target to arrive at the building. And then, something unexpected happens in front of his eyes. With an unexpected twist ,He is now chased by both the police and the mobs for what he does not commits. The chasing starts, even we feel sorry for the unfortunate things happening to this inglorious bastard in the merciless world.

The plot shines lightly and it turns out a mob boss in Seoul, Tae- won(Cho Seong-ha), is involved with the incident. After the involvement of police and the media far more than he has ever thought, he becomes panic. He attempts to solve his problem even before knowing what's exactly going on. This is a real critical situation, especially when Myeon comes to South Korea after the problem between him and Tae-won. Now both want Goo-nam in their hand. Reminding the chaser the good guy plays a very bad guy role here. Can't see the rage of fight with the bones. That's really a new route of violence. Thanks to the director the car chasing scene is really a nail biting high tension scene, he makes very impressive actions sequences. The camera is a little too running. And the plot changes in to unexpected twists. Overall it is really a worth watching experience. Can't wait for another movie from Na Hong Jin.

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3 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

The Yellow Sea starts with drama and ends with mindless action.

Author: Chadwick Ahn (mrwickedproductions) from United States
17 June 2013

*** This review may contain spoilers ***

"Start your life over."

Na Hong-jin, the director of the successful thriller, The Chaser, made another film two years later containing similar themes of crime, desperation, and gore. Both films have the same lead actors as well, instead this time, Kim Yun-seok and Ha Jung-woo switch places as protagonist and villain. And it works out pretty well for them. Ha Jung- woo plays Gu-nam, a poor taxi driver in the Yanbian Province (a Chinese region bordering North Korea and Russia). His wife left him and their daughter to go work in South Korea and send over money. The lack of communication from his wife for over six months has him worried and his debt only increases. In comes Kim Yun-seok's character, Myun-ga, a hit-man boss who offers Gu-nam a chance to pay off his debt and see his wife if he carries out just one hit in Korea. Gu-nam tucks away what little values he has left and hesitantly accepts, resulting in him being shipped off to Korea over the Yellow Sea. A complicated murder and chase story then begins.

Just like other Korean thrillers, The Yellow Sea is gruesomely violent and puts its protagonist through many harrowing situations. The film starts off strong, with a clear idea of where the plot will lead: Gu-nam goes to Korea, kills the man he's been sent to murder, and returns. However, things don't go as planned, resulting in Gu-nam being chased down not only by the police and Myun-ga, but by another hit gang as well. At this point, the movie becomes lost in its initial story of a man trying to commit murder for money and branches off as an hour long chase film. There are literally scenes up to 15 minutes of poor Gu-nam running from a fight he's been caught in the middle of. The chase sequences consist of a lot of action, including multiple cars crashing and flying into the air, without flashy CGI. Because of these chases, the film distances itself away from the characters, or more likely, the characters run away from the film. What starts as a film focusing on the characters' lives and internal struggles, ends up having less and less to offer about the protagonist's dark mentality, and more to offer in terms of physical fights and blood gushing from a hapless victim.

The Yellow Sea starts with drama and ends with mindless action. On the other hand, The Chaser is a continuous spectacle of psychological entertainment. Even so, The Yellow Sea proves that lovers of suspense and thrillers should continue to keep an eye out for Na Hong-jin's future works.

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