In this fast paced action thriller, a taxi driver living in the Yanbian Province of China goes to South Korea when a local gangster offers him to carry out a hit on a professor in return for repaying his debt. In the meanwhile, he also searches for his wife who had come here but had not responded since 6 months. His suspicion of her betrayal makes his tension rise, before something unexpected happens that night on which he is prepared to kill the professor. Soon, he finds himself running for his life from police and the mob, resulting in a lot of violent fights and intense car chases.Written by
The US R-Rated version was heavily edited but it's based on the shorter Korean Director's Cut, but apart from some minor story cuts several short cuts typical for the MPAA had to be made due to depiction of action, violence and sex. The Director's Cut runs 4 minutes and 3 seconds longer than the US R-Rated version. See more »
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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