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Ride the Korean Wave: A New World (2013).

A New World is the first entry in a planned trilogy—thank god.

Those of you who know anything about South Korea know they’ve been making fantastic movies for the past decade or so.  Some have dubbed this phenomenon the Korean wave; I say keep surfing with the movie A New World.  This is a fantastic first installment of what could be one of the greatest gangster series ever made.

Apparently Korean gangsters have gotten smart and organize themselves into corporations or at least pseudo-corporations that run not only legitimate businesses but their illegal activities as well.  The chairman of Goldmoon, South Korea’s largest crime syndicate, is killed in a mysterious car accident, and the battle of who will take over the position begins.  One of the candidates is Ja-sung, an undercover police officer who has been operating for eight years and is at the end of his rope and promised retirement, but the police force him to keep working and threaten to leak his identity if he refuses.  Who are the real criminals here?

 

The police break their promise to Ja-sung a second time again refusing to let him retire. Moreover, Ja-sung’s wife was pregnant, but the stress from Ja-sung’s profession results in the baby being still-born.  But our friendly police officers show no sympathy for this tragedy.  It’s a good thing payback is a bitch.  Because our undercover cop pulls off the ultimate coup—in fact the idea was even given to by his slave driving boss; that is, Ja-sung had already secured the loyalty of Jang’s men, leading to Jang’s own death, as well as Ja-sung’s succession as chairman. Feeling deeply betrayed by the police, Ja-sung decides to become a full criminal. He orders the murder of Chief Kang (his immediate cop superior) and Commissioner Ko (Kang’s superior) so that no record will remain of his police membership. He also murders Lee, his only possible rival.  The assassins he uses are known as the Yan Bin Hobo’s and when you see the film you will know why.

The last scene is a flash-back from six years ago, when Ja-sung was still beginning as an undercover police officer.  He and Jung, at that time a low-level member, successfully kill a much larger group of rival criminals, seemingly enjoying the process. This demonstrates Ja-sung’s early corruption and also the depth of Jung’s friendship with him.

If you miss this film you have only yourself to blame.  It is currently playing on Netflix so you don’t have to go through some back channels to find it.

 
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Posted by on May 31, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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I changed my mind. Instead of reviewing Iris, I decided to go with “New World” (2013) another great Korean “wave” film.

Apparently in Korea, criminal have become much more organized than their counterparts here in America.  In Korea, they have adopted a corporate model, with separate divisions, officers, board meetings and the whole lot.  This film depicts a criminal organization known as Goldmoon and undercover police officer Ja-sung (Lee Jung-jae) who is tasked with infiltrating the organization, which is the largest crime syndicate in Korea.  His handler Chief Kang (Choi Min-sik) is a real bastard willing to put the screws to this guy to get what he wants at whatever the cost.  After eight years, Ja-sung becomes the right-hand man to the ring’s second-in-command Jung Chung (Hwang Jung-min), who holds real power. But when its leader is killed in a mysterious car accident, Goldmoon is thrown into a succession struggle that threatens to tear it apart.  With a baby on the way, Ja-sung is desperate to retire, however Kang forces him to stay on as rival factions quickly develop around two prospective leaders, the gang’s number 2, Jung Chung and number 3, Lee Joong-gu (Park Sung-woong).

Top-level police officials initiate “Operation New World” to intervene in Goldmoon’s selection process for the next leader, and to use the leader’s death to their advantage to control the crime organization.  Caught between Jung Chung who trusts him with his life, and Kang who thinks of him only as bait, Ja-sung is cornered by both bosses on opposite sides and must make a final decision that rests on loyalty and betrayal.  And the best part is that he sells his ruthless handler down the river having him killed by group of thugs known as the Yanbin Hobos.  Since all information about his activity was wiped from police files, he takes over control of Goldmoon and no one is the wiser.  Given his situation, frankly I can’t blame him.

This is a great gangster movie that shows what can happen to people if they are forced to play role for too long i.e. life begins to imitate art.  Ja-sung remains undercover for 8 years moving his way up this well organized criminal enterprise.  The stress causes his wife to have a miscarriage, and she also is forced to spy her husband by the unfeeling handler.  Under this kind of immense pressure, his actions, though legally wrong, are understandable and in fact seem like his only option for survival.  As you watch this well-acted film you find yourself rooting for the bad-guys simply because the “good guys” are no better than the people they are persecuting—bending and breaking the very laws they claim to uphold to justify an end that is questionable at best.

Another great Korean “wave” film in my opinion with all the elements that make gangster movies fun, it is gritty, avoids the typical Holly Wood ending where the good guys somehow always prevail and shows the authorities in a very different light than say the American tripe seen the Untouchables.  It is currently on Nexflix to take a couple of hours and see for yourself and let me know your thoughts.

 
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Posted by on February 19, 2015 in Movie Reviews

 

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Rough Cut (2008)–Since Bonnie Can’t get her act together on Hero.

I apologize to all of our family here at JPFmovies for falling down on the job but I was trying to force bonnie to get her Hero review done before I put anything else up.  That was six months ago and just can’t take her inability to post a simple movie review anymore.

Su-ta (Kang Ji-hwan) is an aggressive, arrogant and spoiled movie star who not surprisingly routinely plays yakuza type gangster-roles and has a tendency to throw a punch in real life to increase his fame, but he seriously injures another actor on the set of his new film and the production is suspended as a result no other actor is willing to fill the role of his adversary.

Gang-pae (So Ji-sub) is a real, smooth gangster who despite his youth has risen to No. 2 in his organized crime ring.  He is the gang’s troubleshooter and top fighter.  He is also a big movie fan, often sneaking off alone to watch flicks.  One night, Gang-Pae hears that Su-Ta is drinking in the same bar and he orders one of his men to get Su-ta’s autograph.  The short-tempered Su-ta refuses and this leads to a confrontation between Gang-Pae and Su-Ta.

A few days later, Su-Ta critically injures yet another actor while filming a fight scene.  Filming now comes to a halt, because no other actors will work with the short tempered and spoiled movie star.  Su-ta then thinks backs to his confrontation with Gang-Pae and recalls Gang-Pae mentioning he performed as an extra in a film before.  He then contacts Gang-Pae and offers him the co-starring role.  Gang-pae agrees, but with one condition: instead of simulated blows, they will fight for real in front of the cameras.

As production of the movie moves forward, Gang-Pae starts falling down on his day job as the deputy chief gangster (as  well as kicking Su-Ta’s ass in the scenes).  The “chairman” of the gang loses patience and eventually refuses to see him (he is in jail awaiting trial).  This is not good news for Gang-Pae and his men are forced to take emergency action to protect themselves and their organization.  I am not going to spoil the ending to encourage you to watch the film, but I will say that it concludes with a punch to your nose, and its final image will linger in your memory.

Rough Cut’s interesting premise delves into parallel stories involving Gang-pae’s gangster life, the filming of the movie within a movie, and Su-ta’s shallow personal life.  If the story seems convoluted don’t worry, it is linear and doesn’t bother to delve more than skin deep examining those issues.  The film’s focus is rather on two men and their violent confrontations on screen.  Ji-seob So becomes an incredibly charismatic figure.  Using his calm, cool demeanor that houses a monsoon of emotions underneath, Ji-seob So quickly takes over the film until it is literally his movie.  His counterpart (and good friend in real life) Ji-hwan Kang, performs satisfactorily as “Su-ta,” but there is a mile difference between their screen presence.  Rough Cut has what it takes to win you over with ease.

Watch it, it has all of the elements of a good JPFmovies film—which is hard to come by.  And yes Dangerous you will like the choreography of the fights scenes in this film.

 
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Posted by on September 23, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Rip Torn, Richard (“Shaft”) Roundtree, Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds in “City Heat” (1984) or City Heat—better turn on the air conditioning to watch this one.

Since we are transitioning from our tribute to Burt Reynolds to Rip Torn, City Heat was the first movie that came to mind.  It has Reynolds and Torn as well as what looks on paper to be a strong supporting cast.  Until I watched this film again to write this review, I forgot just how bad this movie really is.

City Heat is a 1984  (purportedly) action-comedy film. Pairing Eastwood and Reynolds in a Prohibition-era action-comedy probably looked like a good idea at the time and it did make money in spite of itself (earning $38,300,000 at the box office on a $25,000,000 budget).

Set in Kansas City in 1933, a police lieutenant known simply by his last name, Speer (Eastwood), is acquainted with your template former cop turned private eye named Mike Murphy (Reynolds).  Of course Speer and Murphy served on the force together and were once good friends, but now can’t stand each other.  Oh, we are just setting this one up for some hilarious scenes with this original story line.  Be that as it may, these two chums have eyes for Murphy’s secretary Addy.  Addy loves both and (tries) to prove it when she kisses Murphy goodbye and then goes on a date with Speer.  Murphy, however,  has a new romantic interest in a  rich socialite type named Caroline Howley (Madeline Kahn).  Speer takes Addy to a boxing match on his date at which the mob boss Primo Pitt (Torn) is present. Murphy’s partner Dehl Swift (Richard “Shaft” Rountree) is also there and is sucking up to Pitt and his gang.  Swift has a briefcase that Pitt and his boys want—badly.

Without skipping a beat, Swift is shot by Pitt’s thugs who are there to get the case, but there’s nothing inside.  One of the goons throws Swift’s body out of the window and lands on the roof of Speer’s car.  As is required in all police-action-comedies, Murphy vows revenge on Pitt for killing his partner.  He asks Speer for assistance and they form a reluctant alliance.

After a lot of needless filler, final showdowns occur in a warehouse, where Speer “humorously” pulls out a weapon larger than Murphy’s, and in a brothel, where Murphy shows up in costume.  Again, this film category requires that the men again have become friends, at least until a casual remark leads to them stepping outside and bickering, face to face.

I can’t think of another cliché that could have been added to this movie, although I have been trying. If you can come up with one, please send it to me in a comment. After all, the film already contains such original subplots and devices as an about to be dead guy who is warned by his girlfriend ahead of time “Dehl, don’t do this,” a girlfriend who is kidnapped and held hostage by gangsters (in fact every woman in the movie is kidnapped by gangsters at some point), gangsters in search of “goods” that must be delivered in a suitcase, a P.I. who eats dinner every night in the same diner, the bathtub gin stored under the sink, a devoted secretary who never leaves her post even at night (as a sole proprietor myself I have to wonder how he pays her), Congressmen turning up in a brothel, gangsters who spend all their spare time playing poker, a henchman named “Lefty”…the list could go on and on, but you get the idea.

Likewise, the running gags in City Heat come to a complete standstill. For example, it quickly stops being funny to hear Reynolds ask, after someone bursts in a door, “doesn’t anybody ever knock?”

This movie had problems both on and off the set.  Reynolds seriously injured his jaw, the morons at the marketing department opened “City Heat” against “Beverly Hills Cop,” and Eddie Murphy cleaned the clocks of both Eastwood and Reynolds.  Reynolds would never be a top star again. Adding insult to injury, the ad tag line “The Heat is On!” first used by “City Heat” was shifted to “Beverly Hills Cop” (and to Glen Fry’s song) when “City Heat” mercifully disappeared from theaters.

I’ll almost always take a good story over “stars” and if you ever needed proof that superstars aren’t as important as a good screenplay then look to City Heat.  Apparently Blake Edwards (Pink Panther Series) was set to direct this movie but got fired sometime during the filming because he couldn’t agree with the two stars on what this film’s end product should look like a/k/a “creative differences.” Maybe the loss of Edwards was a material factor in the abortion this film turned out to be, but whatever the reason it’s doubtful you’ll see Eastwood in a worse movie.

 
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Posted by on April 2, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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Harlem Nights: Smell the Rose Not the Dung

Back in the days when Spike Lee complained that no African Americans on their own authority could make movies in Hollywood, he was proven completely wrong, (at least in one instance), by the film “Harlem Nights,” which was written and directed by Eddie Murphy.  Harlem Nights has an all-star cast, including Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, Red Fox, Della Reese, Arsenio Hall, Michael Lerner, and Danny Aiello.  With this kind of talent, it would be difficult (if not impossible) to make such a movie be anything but terrific.  Much to my chagrin, however, many movie critics and reviewers trashed the movie for reasons such as it was too profane to take place in the mid-1920s, and that every white man was portrayed as a racist. To that I respond: (a) did you actually expect a movie starring Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Red Fox to be easy on the profanity, and if so, you’ve had your head buried in the sand for quite some time (although I must admit that the word “fuck” or a derivative of the word was said approximately 133 times throughout the film), and (b) that all white men were cast as racists–give me a break; it was 1930s Harlem. I don’t think the portrayal is too off base or out of line.

As usual, I take a completely different position on this film.  I thought it was hilarious and had a great story, as well as some fine performances by exceptionally funny actors.  One of my favorite (yet relatively unknown) actors, Michael Lerner, played the villain Bugsy Calhoun and provided a stellar performance.  Though I must say my favorite Lerner character was “Jack Lipnick” in the Cohen Brothers classic Barton Fink—but I digress, and that is for another day.

“Sugar” Ray (Richard Pryor) is the owner of a very successful illegal casino and has to contend with the pressures of a vicious gangster and corrupt policeman who wants to see him be driven out of business.  Eddie Murphy plays his young, firebrand partner, and Redd Foxx is their sage mentor.  Della Reese is the Madame in charge of the “ladies of the evening.”

The evil gangster’s night club is losing business.  While Sugar Ray’s club is only frequented by African American customers and the gangster’s club only by whites, helped by the corrupt police detective Phil Cantone (Danny Aiello), the gangsters try to make Sugar Ray go out of business.  Of course, it is only natural that you feel sympathy for Sugar Ray and his nightclub gang, especially when you see how detective Cantone operates.  Eddie Murphy, “Mr. Quick,” wants to fight his way out guns a-blazing and suggests killing the gangsters in a clichéd gangster war a la “The Godfather.”  But Sugar Ray, being older and wiser, has a wittier, more clever plan to ruin the gangsters.  However simple and predictable the plot may seem, there is a wonderful twist in the end.

The clip I have picked is a great scene in which Eddie Murphy gets his butt whooped by Della Reese.

 
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Posted by on April 20, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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