Ironically, No Tears for the Dead, a film with themes concerning honor, power and greed, is strongly focused on mourning the deceased, conveyed emotionally through the plot, which concerns death and suicide. This subsequently reveals how simple it is to take a life, and how pointless it can often appear, while suggesting that the execution of an individual goes much deeper, the impact killing their closest friends and family who must suffer the pain, and the consequences, of their passing.
When we first meet Mo-Kyung (Kim Min-Hee), it is difficult to discern if she is aware of the tragic loss she has suffered, the professional climate she inhabits forcing her to work as she hides much of her pain, after having lost both her daughter, the adorable Yoo-Mi (Kang Ji-Woo) and husband, while the two were overseas. The use of contextualization over the duration of the feature layers the emotional depth over time, Ms. Min-Hee being responsible for one of the film's most poignantly incredible scenes, that is especially due to her exceptional talent.
However, she is not the only person suffering from this loss. Gon (Jang Dong-Gun), the hit-man responsible for inadvertently snatching away Yoo-Mi's life, a character who often appears stoic and emotionally impotent, is plagued by the trauma of his wrongdoing, while also suffering the pain of his past, the consequences of which inevitably formed his character's views and values. This pain only grows stronger as the narrative progresses, though the motivations that inspire this are largely conveyed visually, rather than being further scaffolded through dialogue, the feature, at one point, reducing this sub-plot to little more than a stereotypical cliché. Gon's inability to hide his regret is largely caused by the order he receives to terminate Mo-Kyung, to ensure she does not ask unwanted questions, in an attempt to shelter other antagonists involved in the corruption and money laundering schemes, including the vile John Lee (Kim Joon-Sung), from being apprehended by police.
Originally beginning in Los Angeles, before moving to South Korea, at least half the script is presented in English, and not only is this written in an exemplary fashion (which, unfortunately, isn't always the case with Asian movies - I'm looking at you The Viral Factor), the actors speak their lines of dialogue with educated professionalism.
As Gon fights his personal moral battles, those giving the orders begin to doubt his resolve, leading them to send his brother in arms, Charles (Brian Tee), and his proficient team, to complete his assignment, friendship and loyalty being major themes that begin to be contended. The battles that ensue are absolutely outstanding, not only being incredibly violent, sometimes hilariously so, but being intelligently thought out, as the characters attempt to out-think each other, rather than simply using brutality. In many of these instances, characters are horrifically wounded, and yet unrealistically survive, this tactic seemingly granting the plot further longevity, which may cause some viewer's to question the necessity of this action.
Occasionally, the directionality of the plot and character progression can become predictable, though that doesn't mean the film is not without its surprises. The characters, especially the villains, are capable of making dialogue reflective of black humor, though at the same time, enemies, despite exhibiting recognizable influences, can appear a little two-dimensional.
Despite the ending been quite a surprise, while beneficially fitting the narrative, the conclusion raises additional questions that are unresolved, providing limited closure, while the fate of one of the leads is entirely uncertain. Audiences throughout the story may be hoping for Gon's character to find redemption or forgiveness, and in the end, a question worth asking is: are we satisfied?
Although No Tears for the Dead is viciously entertaining, emotionally poignant, and efficaciously acted and directed, more depth could have been provided to truly resolve some of the film's most impacting story-lines.
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