Upgrade

Upgrade (2018)

Upgrade first published by Little White Lies The second film (after 2015’s Insidious: Chapter 3) to be written and directed by Leigh Whannell, Upgrade opens with a contradiction. After the names of the film’s various production companies, and even its title, are read out in a Siri-like voice to the accompaniment of CG imagery, we…

Riki

Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky (1991)

Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky first published by Movie Gazette – here in a longer, expanded version There was a notorious scene in First Blood (1982) when Sylvester Stallone’s Rambo established his tough-guy credentials by stitching up his own arm wound. The hero of Riki-oh: The Story of Ricky, whose name is not so far from another…

Villainess

The Villainess (Ak-nyeo) (2017)

The Villainess first published by SciFiNow “So melodramatic,” says trained killer Kim-sun (Jo Eun-ji) as two of her colleagues, Sook-hee (Kim Ok-bin) and Min-joo (Son Min-ji), spend a little too long on their farewells to each other. It is a familiar criticism levelled by western viewers at the sentimental sensibilities so often found in Korean cinema…

Busan

Train to Busan (2016)

This is an extended version of my onstage introduction to the film when it screened on 6 Oct 2016 as a teaser for the 11th London Korean Film Festival Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure that I welcome you aboard this special screening of Yeon Sang-ho’s Train to Busan. By early August, the film had already…

SPL2 – A Time For Consequences (Kill Zone 2) (2015)

Chan Chi-kit (Wu Jing) has been playing the junkie to help get close an international organ-trafficking cartel – but after an assignment goes wrong, the undercover Hong Kong cop finds himself going cold turkey in a Bangkok prison. There Chi-kit is watched closely by both corrupt warden Ko Chun (Zhang Jin) and decent local rookie…

Veteran (2015)

Review of film that formed part of the ‘0th’ Edition of the London East Asian Film Festival (LEAFF 2015) “No police has ever touched one of the superrich,” team chief Oh (Oh Dal-su) tells his detective Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) in Veteran. Still, Ryoo Seung-wan‘s eleventh feature carefully teases out the points of contact between…

Babylon

Babylon A.D. (2008)

Babylon A.D. first published by Film4 Synopsis: Vin Diesel’s veteran-turned-mercenary escorts an innocent young woman through an apocalyptic futurescape, unsure whether she is human bomb or new messiah. From the director of La Haine. Review: “I learned something that day: you can’t always walk away. Too bad it was the day I died.” The sound of Vin Diesel’s…

Raid 2

The Raid 2 (2014)

“It’s a question of ambition really,” says up-and-coming gangster Bejo (Alex Abbab) at the beginning of The Raid 2. “Let me rephrase that: it’s a matter of limitation.” Ambition and limitation are key dynamics in Gareth Evans’ sequel to his 2011 action film. The cruel yet calculating Bejo is “in this for the long run”,…

Raid

The Raid (2011)

The Raid first published in S&S Jun 2012 Review: Opening with the image of a ticking watch placed beside a gun, The Raid (Serbuan Maut) is, as those props would suggest, a tense, hyperviolent action thriller, set almost entirely in a deadly 15-story tenement that has been built as much from the tropes and cliches…