Wednesday, July 30, 2008

City of Violence

Ryoo Seung-wan | 2006 | 92 min | South Korea

Chances are if you are any kind of action movie fan you have subjected yourself to at least a couple of the recent tepid offerings from Jackie Chan and Jet Li et al. Stop doing that to yourself. By the time Hollywood gets wind of Asia's best action stars they are already too old to do the kind of material they are known for and seem to be kept on an inexplicably short creative leash besides. Meanwhile, Asia is still turning out incredible fare with a new generation of talent. To cleanse your pallet of dross like War, look no further than City of Violence.

City sees a group of high school friends reunite following the murder of one of their circle. Over the years the friends have grown apart and on to different sides of the law. Tae-su has become a big city detective who decides to add his efforts to the stalled murder investigation in his hometown along with old pal Seok-hwan. The two soon run afoul of their schoolmate Pil-ho and shady business development. In deciding to pursue their private investigation the two find themselves risking not only their relationships but the lives of even more friends and family.

Ryoo Seung-wan writes, directs, and co-stars as Seok-hwan. City leaves no doubt that he is a major new talent. It is directed with incredible energy and humour. The plot is fairly predictable and none of the turns are surprising, but this film never pretends to be a twist loaded epic. There are no pretensions or attempts to illicit gasps from the audience. They aren't needed. This movie delivers solid acting, good laughs, and impresses with inventive, darting tae kwon do. Great action set pieces and fun stylistic flourishes set City of Violence apart.

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