January 10, 2009

Typhoon: There's a Storm Brewing for the South

There are whole dialogues in Typhoon that are in English (and Russian too) but that doesn't make it any easier to understand. Something's going on involving modern-day piracy, nuclear terrorism, and a North Korean family's amnesty request being denied but how these elements all fit together is a mystery...at least, at first. Later, a childhood flashback makes everything crystal clear. That's too bad. This melodramatic thriller is much better when it's being frustratingly confusing than when it's being overly simplistic. Not that it's ever very good. While its visual shorthand can be charming -- the villain (Jang Dong-kun) has messy, rock-n-roll hair and a leather jacket; the bland hero (Lee Jung-jae) sports a crewcut and white Oxford shirts -- the cinematic bombast promised by its 15 million dollar budget, a record high in South Korea when it was produced, never arrives. From the looks of it, auteur Kwak Kyung-taek would've done well to hire an outside screenwriter and put a toy boat in a bathtub for the climactic battle scene which simulates a major storm to minor effect. Maybe some of the funds went to getting top-shelf heroin and morphine for scenes involving the terrorist's druggie-prostitute sister (Lee Mi-youn). Lucky her, eh?

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