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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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Point and Counterpoint: Bonnie’s The Divine Weapon Redux

In case anyone ever wakes you up out of a sound sleep at 4 a.m. and demands that you write a movie review right then and there (a purely hypothetical situation of course), you could not have a better subject than The Divine Weapon. This movie approaches what I will think of forevermore as the Red Cliff standard. While it does not offer nearly as many brilliant martial arts scenes as Red Cliff, it makes up for it in rich character development and historical education (don’t worry, the educational aspect of the film is completely painless).

If you had to guess which weapon is considered “divine,” what would you choose? The sword? The spear? The staff? Nunjakus? Some sort of gun? All these choices would be wrong – in this case it is the Singijeon, the Korean version of the Chinese fire arrow, an early automatic weapon that fires arrows with tips that explode a few seconds after impact. I found an image of this weapon, which hopefully JPFMovies can attach below—or you can see another image, very similar to this one, at the original JPFMovies review of this film, which was appallingly titled, “The Divine Weapon – Not a Bad Flick.” (https://jpfmovies.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/the-divine-weapon-not-a-bad-flick/)

At the stage picked up by The Divine Weapon, the Singijeon is almost complete – but its inventor deliberately blows himself up and leaves the remaining research to his daughter, a very strong woman who is determined to make this weapon for her country, Korea’s Joseon kingdom. She succeeds, of course, and with her help a badly outnumbered Korean army defeats China’s Ming forces as they attempt to take over Joseon. To help her along the way, she has a merchant and his clan (she fights with the merchant, who is played by a famous Korean actor whose name I am having trouble verifying, but eventually they fall in love), the court official who ensures that she has a secret place to hide and work (at the home of the merchant), and a group of monks who help to gather the salt peter which is a necessary ingredient in gunpowder (and if you’ve ever read a story of American pioneers making gunpowder, this process may enlighten you as to the mysteries involved in that process!).

I suppose I should tell you that the best thing about this movie is that it explains the development of the Singijeon and shows exactly what went into making gunpowder and testing the new weapon. But, while those things do contribute quite a bit toward making this movie compelling and fascinating, what makes it sweet is the love story. For that alone, this movie deserves a rose.

So take that, JPFMovies. “Not a bad flick,” indeed.

 
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Posted by on June 6, 2011 in Movie Reviews

 

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The Divine Weapon–Not a Bad Flick

The Diving Weapon is a decent time piece tracing the development of a Korean weapon system known as the Singijeon, a multiple rocket launcher made by Korean general Choe Mu-seon in 1377, during the Goryeo Dynasty.

"The Divine Weapon"

The small, but righteous, nation of Josen develops the Singijeon long before the tyrannical Ming Dynasty can and uses the weapon’s devastating capabilities to establish its independence from Ming.  It is a fun story replete with diabolical generals, furious sword play, an intelligent and beautiful woman as well as good costumes.

The movie does try to be all things to all people; that is, a romantic comedy/melodrama/martial arts/swordplay film with an abundance of characters.  Even though the film tries to cram all of these themes into a couple of hours, it still has all of the elements of solid Asian historical epic making it worth your two hours to watch—I doubt you will demand the time back.  Definitely not crap. I have been advised that my rating of this movie was totally off the mark.  According to Bonnie Juettner, guest reviewer at large (and beloved fiancee), “this movie may require you to update your rating system, JP, with a level that is a step below the glory of Red Cliff and a step above the mediocrity of a mere ‘not crap.’ Like Red Cliff, The Divine Weapon offers compelling characters (including at least two strong women who even the most dedicated male chauvinist would not be able to help but admire), a strong story line in which you cannot help but root for the underdog, a historical education, and some awesome martial arts (though not at the level of the fight scenes in Red Cliff). Unfortunately, it also contains a horrific leave-the-room-for-this-part child castration scene–and, some things are really too horrible to put into the movies. I would call this level, ‘Almost Red Cliff,’ or possibly a Rosebud.”

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2010 in Movie Reviews

 

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