The Yellow Sea Review
Treating crime drama like a death cage tournament, rousing, dark-hearted Korean epic The Yellow Sea doesn't know quite when to stop once it begins, which is with an ethnically Korean Chinese cabbie (Ha Jung-woo) traveling to South Korea to find his errant wife and pay off her debt by killing a gangster. Nothing goes according to plan, of course, unleashing a cataract of whackings and wild chases, and setting two rabid crime bosses (Kim Yun-seok and Cho Seong-ha) at one another's throats, in an undulating blood festival of carving knives, hatchets and ka-thunking soup bones. (It's a little tough to keep all of the doomed secondary characters straight, knee-deep as they are in henchmen corpses.)
Writer-director Na Hong-Jin achieves a vibe of urban desolation right off the bat, and deepens the mayhem with acutely observed and charged details about illegal-immigrant life. If anything, Na's film is too much of a good thing, exceeding credibility too often (the punching-bag hero is far too lucky — good and bad — and absorbs a hilarious amount of punishment) in its pursuit of despairing violence. But that's the Korean way, and Na nails down the bottom-feeder realism while slouching toward video-game hyperbole. —Michael Atkinson (Regal L.A. Live)
Get the Film Club Newsletter
Stay up to date on the best new movies with our critics' latest reviews, interviews and trailers for the films coming to a theater near you each week.