It can be difficult to find a way in to the cinema of another culture, and, even despite its impressive catalog of really excellent films, the Korean New Wave is no exception. Park Chan Wook's movies ("Oldboy" and "Thirst", among others) are one way in, but they are often so stylized, and the style so different from what plays at the multiplex, as to be offputting. The bestselling movie in Korea, Bong Joon-Ho's "The Host," is a monster-comedy; it seems like the kind of thing that would go over well in the USA, but the humor and its delivery is so culturally Korean that I found it hard to watch.
I'd recommend "I Saw the Devil" as a great starter film for anyone wanting to dip their foot into the world of Korean New Wave cinema. Directed by Kim Ji-Woon, "Devil" is a bloody action thriller; another reviewer recently called it "Jason Bourne meets Hannibal Lecter." Dae-su Oh is a relentless, brutal serial killer who preys on young women. But his latest target is the pregnant fiance of Byung-hun Lee, who works for the Korean Special Forces and has access to some really neat gadgets. Also, he can kick the crap out of anybody. Lee hunts Oh down, then, instead of killing him or turning him in, plays catch-and-release; he forces him to swallow a GPS tracker and a microphone, and every time Oh starts to relax, Lee catches up to him again and beats the holy hell out of him. This isn't about justice; this is about revenge. But it's easy to confuse the two.
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