The Yellow Sea

"Very Good"

The Yellow Sea Review


This breathless epic thriller from Korea traverses the genres from lovelorn romance to personal horror to gangster action and back again. It's far too long, and gets rather exhausting in the final act, but it's impossibly to be bored.

In the region where North Korea, China and Russia meet, nearly 1 million Joseonjok people resort to illegal activities to survive. Here, Gu-nam (Ha) is a cabbie who borrowed a bit too much money to send his wife across the Yellow Sea to South Korea. Desperately in debt, he meets Myun-ga (Kim Yun-seok), who offers him work that might turn his life around and reunite him with his wife.

So he heads to Seoul, where the job takes a twist that complicates his life beyond his wildest imagination.

The film is shot in an urgent, gritty style that almost makes Na's previous film (2008's superb The Chaser) look slick and overproduced. This film revels in the squalor of its characters lives, with seedy gambling halls, snarling guard dogs and shady thugs at every turn. Hope for a better life seems so far out of reach that it's not even worth thinking about.

Na keeps the pacing taut, pushing Gu-nam further down this rabbit hole as he encounters a Hitchcockian series of terrifying events. This is a simple guy just trying to regain his wife and life, and yet he finds himself on the run, accused of a murder he didn't commit and chased by thugs more violent than he could imagine. And indeed, the violence is unthinkably horrific.

As with The Chaser, Na demonstrates astonishing skill at assembling pursuit sequences, as Gu-nam is chased by armies of cops and gangsters. It's fairly clear that he'll never clear his name, so escaping becomes panic-strikingly urgent, and watching him run through streets filled with colliding police cars and rampaging trucks is outrageously thrilling.

Despite the confusing barrage of characters and plot twists, we can engage with Gu-nam's desperation. In the end, the mayhem goes on far too long as the story gets crazier and messier. Every set piece is packed with suspense and grisliness, but as the body count rises we begin to wonder what the point is.

Especially since Gu-nam's personal route through the carnage is sometimes lost in the noisy grisliness.



The Yellow Sea

Facts and Figures

Run time: 136 mins

In Theaters: Friday 2nd December 2011

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Production compaines: Wellmade Starm, Popcorn films, Fox International Productions, Location Incentive Program of Pusan Film Commission, Korea Trade Insurance Corporation, Hong Kong Asia Film Financing Forum, Showbox/Mediaplex

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 85%
Fresh: 17 Rotten: 3

IMDB: 7.4 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Na Hong-jin

Producer: Han Sung-goo

Starring: Ha Jung-Woo as Gim Gunam, Kim Yun-Seok as myeon jeonghak, Cho Seong-Ha as Gim Taewon, Lee Cheol-min as Choe Seongnam, Kwak Do-won as Gim Seunghyeon, Im Ye-won as professor's wife

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