November 7, 2009

The City of Violence: A Mediocre Movie That Packs Extra Punch

More than one not-so-hot movie has been rescued by a flashy martial arts finale. Ryu Seung-wan's The City of Violence takes this approach to the extreme: Every fifteen minutes or so comes another playfully shot, precisely choreographed battle that's as visceral as it is gymnastic. There's one great free-for-all in a police station, an unrelenting rumble with an ever-growing street crowd of baseball players, break dancers, and the girls' field hockey team, and an extended fight-to-the-finish that incorporates sliding doors, hilarious hair-pulling and one suddenly fingerless hand. The connection between all this killing and the founding of a casino feels negligible at best and the villain (Lee Beom-su) is neither clever nor charismatic. But ultimately, the WHY behind each punch and kick proves irrevelant. Every time Seok-hwan (Ryu) and his buddy, the detective Tae-su (Jung Doo-hong who's also the fight choreographer), decide to exact physical revenge on behalf of their old pal Wang-jae (Ahn Kil-Kang), you're too busy admiring the roundhouse kicks and wincing at the mouthfuls of blood to worry about something as simple as character motivation. If you need more than fisticuffs, focus on the costumes and the sets which are also thoughtfully executed.

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