Genre: Action Thriller
Director: Na Hong-Jin
Starring: Kim Yun-seok, Ha Jung-woo, Cho Seong-Ha, Lee Chul-Min
Duration: 140 min.
Gu-nam is a cab driver in Yanji City who leads a pitiful life. His wife went to Korea to earn some money 6 months ago, but he hasn’t heard from her since. He plays mah-jong to make some extra cash, but his life only becomes more complicated and pathetic. One day he meets a gangster named Myun-ga who offers him a proposal to turn his life around by repaying his debt, and reuniting with his wife. All for the price of one hit...
The Yellow Sea is the second feature film from South Korean director Na Hong-jin, it is his follow up to 2008's The Chaser and features the same lead actors from that film, Ha Jeong-woo and Kim Yoon-seok. It premiered theatrically in South Korea in December 2010 and was screened in the Un Certain Regard section of the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.
This one starts out in Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture a Chinese territory with a large Korean population located in between China, Russia, and North Korea. We are told it is a place where much of the populace relies on illegal activities to get by. Sounds like a modern version of Deadwood, and it provides an amazing setting for a crime film.
Gu-nam (Ha Jeong-woo) spends his days as a cabbie, and his nights drinking and losing his wages in mah-jong parlors. His wife went to Korea six months ago to work but he hasn't heard from her since. Broke, desperate and depressed, he meets Myun-ga (Kim Yoon-seok) who offers him a large sum of money in exchange for a contract killing in Seoul. He accepts this chance at a new life and to find out what happened to his wife. With the first act of the film, director Na Hong-jin sets up the story brilliantly showing the downtrodden life in Yanbian and it's entirely believable that someone would be in Gu-nam's situation.
There is no doubt that Na has a talent for filming chase and fight sequences, and this one is filled with them. Once the furious action starts about 45 minutes in, it doesn't let up until the end. There are dozens of cars crashed in spectacular fashion and plenty of violence with fists, knives, hatchets, and even a large half eaten bone. However, the realism and authenticity is thrown out the window and the narrative gets a bit muddled and confusing, maybe even a bit overlong, preventing it from being the anticipated tight thriller and delivering instead more of a straight up action film. Still very entertaining but not nearly as satisfying.