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South Korean Action-Crime Drama

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"Noirish" Cool and Brutal Martial Arts Action...Equals Success!!

  • Apr 27, 2009
Rating:
+4
CITY OF VIOLENCE (aka: Jjakpae) is the 4th film by acclaimed action director Seung-Wan Ryoo (Arahan, Crying Fist). His films usually have that commercial appeal which is why they have enjoyed more success in most other countries in Asia than in South Korea itself. "City of Violence" is no exception, as with most martial arts films, it may have more "Style over substance" but no one can deny that it is very entertaining and quite intense that this film is worth a watch.

A Seoul cop named Taesu (Du-hong Jeong, Fighter in the Wind, Arahan) is summoned back to his hometown to attend a funeral for an old high school buddy named Wang Jae. Once there, he runs into two more of his old group, Pilho (Beum-Soo Lee) and Seok Hwan (Ryoo Seung-Wan). The four apparently forged their own lives; Taesu is a cop, Wang Jae gave up being a gang boss for his family and gave the reins to Pil-ho (who outgrew his goofy kid image), but Seok Hwan, still likes to start fisticuffs. Pil-ho assures Taesu that he owns the town and he will get to the bottom of Jae's murder. But Taesu, being the cop that he is, decides to do a little investigating along with Seok and they find Jae's killers have been brutally beaten to death, except for one. They find that Pil-ho was having an issue with Wang-Jae over a real state deal and it seemed that Pil-ho could have a hand in the murder. Taesu and Seok must go through a gauntlet of Pil-ho's goons and a very tough QUARTET to bring Pil-ho to justice. The inevitable climactic showdown is a sight to behold. 

               Pilho with the quartet

               Alley fight

The plot is unoriginal, and is quite simple, it is a simple revenge film that has been done for ages. The screenplay does get a tad blurry with too many characters introduced and with the flashbacks. It is also hampered with the fact that Pil-ho is revealed to be the culprit early on in the movie. It reminds me of the films; "Stand By Me" and the Korean Hit "Friend". Now don't let me give you a negative impression on the film, I'm merely trying to be honest. The film is nicely paced, and the blending of ass-kicking action sequences does serve up the right dose of violent action, accompanied by nicely done cinematography. The film does have a strong "noirish" feel to it, that is similar to 80's triad Hong Kong films that somewhat blends a familiar western style. 

        fight scene

               Fight

"City of Violence" succeeds in the action/fight scenes as well as its visual style that I forgave its shortcomings. The fight scenes (choreographed by Du-Hong, actor who played Taesu) are very well done and limits the use of wires/CGI. Bloody and hard-hitting, the fights are well-executed with great set ups that the style has a touch of realism and doesn't lose its humanity. Camera work gives you an observational perspective, so you can see all the action. The cinematography of the film is very good, and Ryoo Seung-Wan does execute some nifty editing tricks and cool camera angles. When Taesu and Seok goes through the gauntlet of Pilho's goons, Seung-Wan takes a bird's eye view of the mayhem that gives it that very stylish "cool" intensity. The action is evenly distributed throughout the film's 92 minute runtime. There is a very clever scene with the different "themed" gangs (looked like it was modeled after "The Warriors"; for example, Cheerleaders, bike riders, etc.), with this street fight scene adding a lot to the film's "meat" in action. I also loved the encounter with a very tough foursome; if villains make a film's heroes then this quartet definitely made Taesu and Seok's raw heroic determination. They looked very tired and beat up, it lets them attain a welcome humanity. After all, sometimes it is not so much how good you are as a fighter but more on how much punishment one can take to overcome the odds.

The direction by Ryoo Seung-Wan manages to push "City of Violence's boundaries as an action film but he does retain that cinematic flair. However stylish the film does get, the direction never forgets to inject some realistic touches and grows more brutal and bloody the more fight scenes it brings to its screenplay. Seung-Wan effectively and energetically plays with the film's momentum, he exercises freedom in his films and sets up as many smack downs as he can fit in its runtime. Now the film does have its share of flaws, the flashback fight may display some clever editing tricks but the tone felt a little out of place--its music had the feeling of Korean "pop" that made it a little cheesy that it made seem out of sync with the film's action. Thankfully, "City of Violence" does manage to overcome and cover up its flaws, recovers its pace. It maintained a gritty atmosphere and the music at the climax is reminiscent of the Eastwood's "spaghetti westerns". Despite some pitfalls, all the formulas blend well to give us a very cool action movie.

"City of Violence" may not be wholly original, but it is proof that a film doesn't need to be one to deliver an intense and entertaining experience. It isn't perfect and it does have its share of clumsiness inherent in the first half and the lack of an intricate storyline is a little annoying. The direction thankfully recovers from its flaws, and manages to regain its energy and forward momentum with some gritty performances from its cast; Lee Beom Soo (who plays Pilho) certainly steals the show. It is fast-paced and definitely delivers in the action/fight scenes brilliantly choreographed by Jeong Du-Hong. It is exactly what action-buffs have clamored for in a long time!

Highly RECOMMENDED! For action fans. [4 Stars]



 

Korean Dvd cover fight scene Alley fight Pilho with the quartet fight scene Fight

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May 13, 2011
I loved this one, great review WP.
 
November 22, 2009
Now this just sounds awesome. Nicely pacing, ass-kicking action sequences, violent action, and solid cinematography? I'm satisfied! As always, this will be added to the scroll, we I mean list immediately. Nice review, Pak-Man.
 
April 27, 2009
This looks tasty. Gotsta have my action fix!
April 30, 2009
mighty tasty, Sean.
 
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More CITY OF VIOLENCE reviews
review by . May 21, 2008
posted in Movie Hype
"The City of Violence" is surprisely good and pays homage to a handful of films and maybe video games. As much as I enjoyed this film there is ultimately much more behind it is probably clear, but the film leaves no time for the formulate narrative, which may disappoint the one hand, since there are hardly any surprises, at the same time one feels but also good hands and can be fully applied to the optical review and musical values of the film.     This story entails Tae-Su (Doo-Hong …
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