Monday, August 9, 2010

No Mercy For The Rude


>No Mercy For The Rude (2006)

113 Minutes. Cheol Hie Park, Director.

No Mercy For The Rude is a Korean film that tells the story of an assassin known as Killa, who is working to save up enough money to get a corrective surgical procedure. He was born with a short tongue, giving him a speech impediment, and is now too embarrassed to talk. Killa's two great passions in life are seafood and bullfighting. He loves to watch the bullfights on television and dreams of becoming a great matador one day and laments the fact that there are no bulls in Korea. He prefers to use knives for his killing, having originally been a chef, and only accepting jobs killing those he feels are rude men. As he draws near to his goal, he starts finding his life changing in unexpected ways. A woman (played by Yun Ji Hye and identified only as “She”) he meets in a bar comically forces her way into his life, and later a chance encounter with a rather pushy homeless child leads to Killa finding himself dealing with a sort of makeshift family. Then just as things seem to be coming together for all of them, a botched hit threatens everything.Killa is played by Shin Ha-Kyun, one of my favorite Korean actors, who also provides the narration for the film. This also provides some of the dark humor of the film as we see how things play out in a scene, while hearing a different version of events from Killa as he paints a picture that is more to his liking. He shines in this role as his character conveys much through facial expressions and many times even while wearing sunglasses obscuring his eyes. Shin Ha-Kyun seems to enjoy playing socially disadvantaged characters, having also played a mute character in Chan Wook-Park's Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance and a man with a hairlip in My Brother. Both of those films are well worth checking out, in my opinion. And if you haven't seen Sympathy For Mr. Vengeance by now, I'm ashamed of you.

No Mercy For The Rude is confidently written and directed by Cheol-Hie Park, who's only other IMDB credit is for writing the Korean horror film, Face. (I have never seen Face, and never felt any particular desire to. Should I rectify this?) The film is stylishly shot, graphically violent at times, and very nice to look at. It has a great sense of atmosphere and setting, with nice establishing shots that provide excellent visuals. I love the film's set design, while not as elaborate and candy colored as something like Japan's Survive Style 5+, it still has some stunningly decorated restaurants and street scenes. It feels like it's post modern influences lay with Tarantino and at times the Coen Brothers, although it's hard not to also think of Chan Wook-Park's Vengeance trilogy because of Shin Ha-Kyun, as well as the setting. The film starts out very much like an action comedy and it progresses becomes more and more dramatic while still maintaining it's sense of dark comedy. Even at the tensest of moments, viewers will find themselves chuckling at little moments. The pacing of the film is excellent, never making you feel like it is dragging. Which is a nice change for me, as I often feel Korean films tend to be too long. (Although I usually can't identify the segments that I would cut from them to make those films run more smoothly. Go figure.)But what I feel really sets this film apart are the performances of the actors and the depth of the characters. The characters are all well developed and have back stories to explain their motivations and overall feel like real people. For example, all of the different men that are work as assassins with Killa are only assassins because they failed or were forced out of their original lines of work. One is a martial arts instructor who couldn't make ends meet, and another particularly likeable character is a former ballet dancer with a knee injury which forced him to give up the art he loved. Killa himself would be a matador or poet if he had his way, but circumstances have lead him to becoming an assassin. (The one chance that we get to see some of his poetry is sure to explain why that didn't work out very well for him.) The level of character development in the film helped me care about the characters more than I typically do in a film. When things start going wrong, I was more committed to the characters and their situation than I usually am, which ultimately raises my opinion of the film.As well as covering the ever popular theme of revenge, most evident in the results of the botched assassination mentioned earlier, the film also touches on themes of personal identity, self worth, and acceptance. Killa is too embarrassed to talk and isn't well educated, but dresses in all black, carries knives, wears sunglasses at night, and puts on the persona of a enigmatic bad ass. Sometimes this works for him and people are impressed by his presence, and other times he is ridiculed for it. One could take this theme even further and say that by Killa's decision to only kill those he considers to be rude and bad people that he is trying to justify his actions and maintain his personal identity as what he considers to be a good person, despite being a murderer for hire. Other characters in the film face similar struggles as they try to keep their flaws from showing and act like they are more than they are, much as people in real life often do. This really adds a nice element to the film, in my opinion, and makes it a bit more than it's relatively simple premise would have you believe.

I stumbled on this film basically by accident as I was going through Shin Ha-Kyun's films trying to see what I had missed of his. I am surprised that not many people seem to have seen or heard of it at all. Maybe because 2006 was a good year for Korean films it just got lost in the shuffle. (City of Violence, The Host, Kim Ki Duk's Time, Puzzle, Righteous Ties, I'm A Cyborg But That's Okay, and Arang all released that year as well.) I haven't been able to dig up much information on the topic beyond that it was released on August 24th, 2006 on 52 screens in South Korea and took in a total of $904,802 through 2007. (By comparison, the BIG film that year was The Host, taking in a total of $13,019,740 through 2007. But that's hardly a comparison since roughly 25% of South Korea's population reportedly went to theaters to see The Host.)

I found this film really enjoyable, and think that people who may have enjoyed A Bittersweet Life, The Chaser, or Korean action and thriller films in general should check it out. I think this is the kind of film that might work as a good “conversion film” to use on friends who claim to not like foreign films, as it has a distinct look and flavor that should appeal to fans of Tarantino and his followers. Sadly, it's currently unavailable in Region 1, which is a shame as I think it'd be a relatively successful film for American audiences, but can be found at YesAsia.com and on eBay inexpensively. I truly hope that those who read this review do try to see it and let me know what you think.



Check out the trailer here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OcfqXq9u60A

As always, comments are welcome! =)



Friday, April 9, 2010

Try just a little harder, please?

Try Just A Little Harder, Please Guys?
(HT rants a bit)

I had been toying with the idea of doing a series of reviews on animal attack movies. I've been talking about shark and crocodile movies a lot with some friends online lately, which got me thinking about this idea. So I gathered a few films that I thought may be interesting to watch and write about. I knew full well going into it that some of them would not be good, and knew that some of them would annoy me, but I thought I'd give them a shot anyway. Well... I watched several of them, and kept finding that I unable to cull enough from them to be able to write a review that would have amounted to more than a paragraph or two at most. And even then, most of those reviews would have come down to “I would almost rather stare into my cat's litter box for two hours than watch this thing again.” So instead of a big series of animal attack movie reviews (although I'm sure I'll be covering a few of them here and there), you guys get to read a rant.



Wild animal attack movies are one of my lifelong favorite genres. At the same time, it seems that ninety-five percent or more of these films suck. What's worse is that it's also one of the film genres that is hard hit by the technological achievements in film that allows us to have really bad computer generated effects. Anyone who talks films with me finds out soon enough that I really despise bad CGI. It can break a film for me as faster than anything I can think of. And a lot of cheaply made animal attack movies have gotten to the point that they don't even bother to include a real animal at any point in the film anymore. Just to clear the air, I'm not opposed to CGI if it's done well.




Syfy is particularly notorious for this. And as much as I love a good Jaws knock-off, the ones Syfy has been making are absolutely insufferable. I've seen better CGI in a video game than in some of these films. I recently sat through Malibu Shark Attack and Shark Swarm. Both of whom did not feature a single real shark as near as I could tell. Hell, Malibu Shark Attack even claimed a species of shark was extinct that wasn't. Guess what? Goblin sharks are not extinct, nor are they even known to attack people. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Goblin_shark So not only are they being lazy as film makers by not even bothering to dig up some stock footage of a real shark and sticking in some poorly done CGI that they probably used some poor intern hoping for a college credit to create, but they are giving out straight up misinformation besides. Yes, I am aware that this happens in other genres as well, shows like CSI give unrealistic expectations to the public of what police officers are actually capable of in the way of crime solving all the time.



Don't even get me started on snakes in movies. How many times over the years have I seen a so called poisonous snake depicted in film and have it only be a Columbian Boa, a California Banded Kingsnake, or a Ball Python? (Nerdy Film/Reptile Enthusiast Note: It's call venomous, venom is injected. There is no such thing as a “poisonous” snake.) Is it that hard to track down a non-venomous snake that isn't in 75% of pet shops in the world? I don't complain when they use a milk snake and tell me it's a coral snake, at least they tried. I've ranted on this topic before in my review of Chaw, but it still annoys me. This happens all the time in current films, and it's nothing new, but I always applaud when they at least give an effort. If you look at the original April Fool's Day there is a scene in the woods where a snake strikes at someone and it's a Cook's Tree Boa. Why don't they use those more often? At least it's an unusual looking snake. I realize that I might know a little bit more about snakes than the average viewer, simply because they interest me and I've been around them most of my life, but anyone who's ever been in a pet shop for more than fifteen minutes has seen a few Columbian Boas. All I'm really asking for is a little effort. Really. That's all.

I realize that these things shouldn't be taken seriously and that they are most likely made tongue-in-cheek hoping to appeal to the fans of the so-bad-it's-good types of films. But sometimes bad is just bad. End of story.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Survive Style 5+



Survive Style 5+ (2004)
120 Minutes. Gen Sekiguchi, Director.


A movie where love means never having to kill your wife more than five or six times...




I thought for the first real review I've done in a while, I'd cover one of my favorite films that remains horribly unseen in the US. It's going to be really hard for me not to oversell this one, I'll warn whomever reads this one now. Everyone has films that are their personal favorites, and if I were to rank my top films of the last decade, this one would be in the top ten. I am probably alone in that, partially because few have had the opportunity to watch it from what I can tell, and partially because of that abstract thing that makes a film resonate with some people more than others. One thing is for certain though, I can't think of any movie quite like it.

What is your function?

Survive Style 5+ is kind of an anthology consisting of five stories that manically overlap and interweave with each other. It was the feature film debut of Gen Sekiguchi, who's only other work listed on IMDB is two short films. If the information I've found is correct, he primarily makes his living by directing television commercials. The film seems to never slow down from start to finish, seldom giving you enough time to take in the incredible set design as you fly from one scene to the next. It's sheer unpredictability keeps you from guessing what's going on, and it's probably best to just strap in and enjoy it.

The cast is solid and made up of talent such as Tadanobu Asano (one of my favorite actors, perhaps best known for his role as Kakihara in Ichi The Killer), British actor Vinnie Jones, Hiroshi Abe, Ittoku Kishibe, Jai West (who recently starred in Love Exposure), model/actress Reika Hashimoto, as well as a cameo from the great Sonny Chiba, among others. They all play well off of each other in the film and I can't imagine that they didn't have a great time making it, particularly Asano and Hashimoto, who play a married couple.

The film opens with my favorite story, where a man who's just killed his wife discovers that she isn't dead after all. Aman, played by Tadanobu Asano, gives a brief monologue on killing, and how we wouldn't understand his wanting his wife dead. After burying his wife (Reika Hashimoto) in the woods, he returns to his utterly amazing and somewhat impractical home only to find her waiting there patiently for him to return. She serves him a huge feast, seeming to consist of every bit of food in the house, and waits for him to finish eating before she proceeds to attack him, kicking off (literally) a cycle of almost cartoonish battles between them that will repeat throughout the film. He kills her again, comes home and again she's waiting for him, and the battles continue.


A foreign hit man, played by Vinnie Jones, is brought in by special request for an extravagant, very public job by the man who subcontracted him and acts as his translator. Jones plays well into his stereotype, sneering at everyone he meets, growling the question “What is your function?” at them. He flies off on a rage anytime he doesn't receive a satisfactory answer to this question, which allows for some great moments on airplanes and saunas, while his translator does his best to keep up with the ranting and obscenity that Jones spouts off.


Other stories involves a group of teenagers who burglarize peoples homes for entertainment, one of whom is filled with unrequited love for another gang member, a family who's father is hypnotized into believing he's a bird, much to the horror of his wife and family, and finally, a commercial executive who's constantly thinking up bizarre and quirky television commercials which she explains into a decorated micro-cassette recorder.

You are killing me with the smell of armpits.


This last story thread, involving Yoko the commercial executive, is my least favorite but I can't imagine the film without it being included. Every time that Yoko, played by Ky├┤ko Koizumi, thinks of a commercial, we get to see the commercial play out in the film that she's visualized. Her commercial ideas don't exactly please her clients, nor do they impress her lover, a hypnotist. I found her character to be the least likable person in the film, even while her lover is clearly the most despicable character present, and am still unsure why exactly I feel that way.


The visuals in this film are amazing. Pure eye candy. Vibrant colors cover almost every frame of the film, much of which was done in post production, although you can't tell to look at it. The set designs are lavish and insanely detailed, from the home Aman shares with his wife, down to such small touches as the interior of the gang's car and Yoko's tape recorder. The character costumes are as outlandish and over the top as their personalities, with the beautiful Reika Hashimoto having some of the most stunning outfits of all.


The soundtrack also plays an integral part of Survive Style 5, and is as outlandish as you might expect. The majority of it provided by James Shimoji, but it also contains well known songs such as The First Noel and The William Tell Overture. Scenes that are accented with music are both appropriate and sometimes as over the top as the scenes themselves, which only adds to the roller coaster effect of the film.


While the film at first appears to be rocketing viewers through it with gleeful abandon and childlike innocence, it's actually got quite a bit of heart in the end. It covers many themes such as love and loss, resentment and acceptance, denial and regret, among others. The characters in the film must find ways to continue to survive in the lives that they are placed in, and deal with what that survival means. By the end of the film almost everyone is changed in some way.


You can see the trailer for Survive Style 5+ here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEH7nDkiPEk

I urge anyone who reads this blog to give this film a chance. It is one of the most fun times I've had watching a movie in a long time. If you live in the USA, it's sadly unavailable in Region 1. If you have a region free DVD player, however, it can be had quite inexpensively from Amazon.co.uk, where if memory serves I paid less than 4GBP for my copy.

* Special thanks to Andrea (@forestaken on twitter) for assisting with this review and encouraging me to get over the writer's block I've been fighting with. =)


Comments are always welcome!

Thursday, February 11, 2010

What I've been watching lately...

I realize it's been a long time since I posted anything. I've had writer's block something fierce. In the meantime, just to give you an idea of what I've been up to, this is a list of the films I've watched in 2010, as part of my New Year's Resolution to watch all the films I've bought (some were gifts, promotional materials from work, or whatever) but never watched. I started out with 465 films in my to-watch pile. As of February 2nd, I've added 9 more. This basically means that as of this posting, I've watched 107 films from a total of 474 that I need to watch, leaving me with 367 still to watch this year, plus whatever I buy to add to that. (Which probably won't be very many as it stands right now because I lose my job next month.)

January:

1. The Betrayed
2. Boy In The Striped Pajamas
3. Howling V/Howling VI
4. 5 Dolls for an August Moon
5. Each Dawn I Die (1939) ^
6. The Believer
7. His Name Was Jason
8. Pathogen
9. The Public Enemy (1931)
10. Cop Killers
11. Hell In The Pacific ^
12. Public Enemies * ^
13. The Night Porter
14. Shottas
15. Dog Bite Dog ^
16. Wendell Baker Story
17. Blindness ^
18. The Kid Stays In The Picture
19. White Heat (1949)
20. Isle of the Dead
21. Brain Damage
22. Mark of the Devil
23. TranSiberian
24. The Fair Haired Child
25. The Great Silence ^
26. Do You Like Hitchcock?
27. Wild Country
28. Two Thousand Maniacs
29. Invisible Target
30. Death Proof
31. What Doesn't Kill You
32. Hell High
33. The Girl From Monday
34. Long Weekend (original)
35. Fracture
36. Teeth
37. Dream Cruise
38. Opera
39. Freaks
40. Woyzeck ^
41. Inferno
42. Screwfly Solution
43. The Squid And The Whale
44. H
45. I Walked With A Zombie
46. The Body Snatcher
47. Rockaway
48. House of the Damned
49. Story of a Prostitute
50. Blood From The Mummy's Tomb
51. The Lookout
52. Snow Angels
53. Tower of Evil
54. Return of the Vampire
55. Sound of Thunder
56. Quarantine
57. Let's Scare Jessica To Death
58. Babel
59. Reservation Road
60. The Nest
61. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
62. Bedlam
63. Bullet Ballet ^
64. Bats:Human Harvest
65. Effects
66. Derailed
67. The Secret (not the psuedo-doc, this has Duchovny in it)
68. Female Prisoner #701:Scorpion
69. Last King of Scotland
70. Wonderland (Winterbottom film, not the John Holmes one)
71. The Bank Job
72. Undertow ^
73. Death Sentence
74. Deliver Us From Evil ^
75. Night of the Creeps


February:

76. The Great Raid
77. Cat People (1943)
78. Tightrope
79. Curse of the Cat People (1944)
80. The Hand
81. This Boy's Life
82. Darjeeling Limited
83. Picture Snatcher (1933)
84. Apt Pupil
85. Ice Harvest
86. Brothers Grimm
87. Deadly Spawn
88. Sublime
89. The Tattooist
90. Sunshine Cleaning
91. Petrified Forest
92. Painted Veil
93. I Confess
94. Big Nothing *
95. Beautiful Country
96. Eye of God ^
97. Horrors Of Dracula
98. Already Dead
99. Grizzly
100. Half Nelson
101. Little Caesar
102. Rendition
103. Rise Blood Hunter
104. Mesrine: Killer Instinct * ^
105. Mesrine: Public Enemy Number 1 * ^
106. Sin
107. Play Misty For Me

* = Film I bought since January 1st, 2010.
^ = Film that I consider a favorite of what I've seen so far in 2010.
(believe it or not, some of these I've watched special features on and/or commentary tracks too.)

You can see how others involved in this New Year's Resolution are doing at http:/tinyurl.com/towatchpile.

More reviews are coming, I just have to get myself motivated again. Hopefully, you'll find this at least vaguely interesting in the meantime.