Sunday, July 29, 2012

From Korea and straight-to-DVD: a great NO MERCY and a pretty good HINDSIGHT

This coming Tuesday, July 31 should prove a banner day for Korean film buffs, as two movies not previously seen theatrically in the USA come to DVD via CJ Entertainment, currently pretty much the go-to source for Korean film. If you are looking for exceptionally dark entertainment that pulls no punches, stick NO MERCY (Yongseoneun Eupda) onto your Netflix queue now (it's stream-able), for this is one of the most profoundly dour and difficult vengeance movies I have ever seen. It is extraordinary.

Written and directed by Kim Hyoung-Jun (according to the IMDB, this is his first foray into film), No Mercy tells the tale of a forensic pathologist (above, left) who is also a popular college professor. The film begins with a pair of birdwatchers, one of whom stumbles almost literally upon a dismembered corpse. The police, and of course our prof, are called in on the case, which appears at first to provide clues enough to capture and convict the murderer (above, right) -- who, within the first 30 minutes, has, in fact, confessed.

This is only the beginning of a tale so dark and convoluted, so filled with the errors of the past now impinging on the present, that only slowly and horrifyingly do we and these characters come to understand what is going on -- and why. The movie is filled with all sorts of people: everyone from our upwardly-mobile, middle-class forensics guy to a young and pretty police assistant who used to be a student in one of his classes. There are call girls, environmentalists, avengers, cops and killers -- and you are not always certain that one group in not turning into another. Rape and all kinds of sex (for all kinds of reason) occur, and there is even DNA evidence-planting of a type unseen by me until now.

By the end of the film, you and our hero will have traveled a journey that no one should have to make -- wondering at how the past, along with our deeds, good or bad, are always with us. Filled with visual moments, particularly at the finale, that are both brilliant and startling, this may be one of the darkest films ever made.
No Mercy indeed.


HINDSIGHT (Poo-reun so-geum) is a Korean movie of quite another kind and color. There is plenty of crime afoot, even some killings, but everything is of a much lighter complexion. The movie rather charmingly combines criminal gangs and a cooking school, in which our hero, that truly fabulous Korean actor Song Kang-ho (of everything from Secret Sunshine and The Host to Thirst and the recently covered Secret Reunion), is trying to learn to cook so that he can retire from the "business" and open a seashore restaurant.

His cooking "partner," who is actually following him for gang-related reasons, is that adorable and quite nifty little Korean actress Shin Se-kyung (above), and she is so young, cute, sexy and perky that, while our hero (below) is equally old, schlubby and rather slow (except when he's fighting!) that you know almost instantly they are made for each other.

The movie is, in its way, super-romantic with some thrills, spills, car chases and murders along the way. Somebody wants our hero dead (as well as a number of other crime bosses, some of whom who are already dead). But who? And why? If this is never explained to my satisfaction, and if the ending seems too easily achieved, there is still a lot of fun, along with local color, to be had here.  Overall, Hindsight (and I have no idea why they chose this title for the movie) is pretty good fun.

Though not stream-able (yet), Hindsight, along with No Mercy are available on DVD this Tuesday, July 31, from CJ Entertainment America -- a company that desperately needs a decent web-site upgrade.

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