October 6, 2016

The Age of Reason: A Good Song With Not Enough Lee

How big a fan am I of actor Song Kang-ho? Well, I went to a midnight screening at AMC's dilapidated Empire 25 Multiplex in Times Square just to see The Age of Shadows this past weekend. That's pretty devoted. But you know what I realized in the process? I'm also a big fan of Lee Byung-hun his costar in Shadows and The Good, the Bad, the Weird and JSA: Joint Security Area. In fact, I'm such a fan of Lee that I felt incredibly glum after his character dropped out of the movie in the first few minutes. I know he's crossed over to Hollywood now —the G.I. Joe franchise, the Terminator reboot, The Magnificent Seven remake — but please people, don't tease me with a Lee cameo. Not at 12 a.m.!

So I'm just going to talk about the movie post-Lee, okay? (Not that this makes a difference.) My beloved Song plays a Korean cop who's sold his soul to the occupying Japanese but may find redemption with the resistance. He favors black leather jackets with a long cut and epaulets that are embroidered with gold thread. He's got a mustache that R.W. Fassbinder would've loved and speaks in a low gravelly voice that suggests an artist trying out something new. He's delightful. So are his costars: Gong Yoo plays a revolutionary leader who's still finding his legs; Park Hee-soon, a wiser elder; Han Ji-min, a tough-as-nails lady spy; and Foster Burden, a European sympathizer.

The Japanese, as you might expect given the subject matter are heinous. (Both Tsurumi Shingo and Um Tae-goo seem to relish playing sadistic baddies, with one egging on the torture of a female captive and the other slapping the hell out of an underling's face.) And while we know that the fight for freedom will prove victorious, there's still plenty of tension and suspense in The Age of Shadows. It's not Kim Jee-woon's best flick -- that's probably I Saw the Devil -- but it's a nice addition to his ever-growing oeuvre, which now includes at least one pic with exquisite 1920s costumes.

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