I don't know about you, but a whole mess of movie nerds - I mean scholars, that's it scholars, in the late '90s discovered that the little country of South Korea could make some great genre movies.
Mostly known for Ki-duk Kim's silly (but fun) ecologically-aware kaiju epic YONGARY (1967), South Korea overcame that stigma in 1999 with an anti-terrorist action-thriller SHIRI. SHIRI sported slick visuals, a fast pace and universally appealing themes: secret agents, high-tech terrorists, star-crossed lovers and shit blowin' up. Arguably this was the first Korean blockbuster. So blown away by this $5-8.5 million film that it kicked the crap out of the box office record held by the bloated $200 million TITANIC (1997) which had dominated the box offices throughout Asia. TITANIC had held the record at 4.3 million tickets sold (remember South Korea has a population of 46 million in 1999, as opposed to the US which had a population of 275 million), which was smashed by SHIRI with 6.5 million tickets sold, which means three out of four people in the country bought a ticket to the film. Hollywood execs would murder their favorite coke dealer for those kind of numbers.
Opening with a prologue set in 1985 (presumably to try to fool the audience into thinking that they are predating Hollywood's brief deep water fetish), a Korean oil platform off of Jeju Island (South of Korea and West of Japan) sends a diver down to the ocean floor to see why their drill is stuck. Once down there the floor cracks and little glowing fish swim out followed by a roar and we fade to black. Things can only go up from here. I say, "go up from here". ...because he is on the ocean floor. Oh never mind.
In no time at all, the little glowing fishies start showing up, but only in time for the operation to be shut down by the nameless powers that be. Of course the team's hard work and determination are validated when Cha's uncle Lee (Ahn Sung-ki), a high-ranking muckymuck (we are never told what his rank or position is) flies in and because of their plucky spirit, allows them to keep drilling... Presumably for an interesting script. Says Cha while gazing into the sea, "the ocean is beautiful because it holds oil." Jeezus, it's like she running in the Alaska primary.
All the archetypes are represented here. We have the captain (Jeong-hak Park) who gets no respect because he is a bit of an insecure prick who just graduated from the "captain's academy" - presumably an institute of navel contemplation. Hell, this schmuck doesn't even have a scar to show off while they drink beer around one of those cute little Asian barbecues. While everyone shows off their scars the captain earns their trust by telling his crew that he doesn't have any because scars are an indication of carelessness. Even Kim Jong Un couldn't force people to like this guy. Not even with Dennis Rodman.
|What died on this man's head?|
As much as I am really very forgiving of this DIE HARD-logic type of scenario where you simply change the setting to create a totally original film ("it's a monster on a ship", "it's a monster in a research facility", "it's a monster on a plane"), this is probably the most lazy, careless and embarrassingly halfassed excuse I've seen for a monster movie since the last time I watched an Asylum flick. Shot in 3D, but making little use of the format, the script by writer-director Kim Ji-hun is a tired retread that throws a few ideas on the table and promptly forgets to follow through with them, instead allowing the bulk of the movie to be the cast yelling hysterically and screaming each other's names. Ironically Ji-hun's next film was titled THE TOWER (2012) and was about a luxury high-rise that caught on fire... hmmmm, why does that sound familiar?
|Could they not afford a men's room?|