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Directed by Kyung-Taek Kwak.
Written by Kyung-Taek Kwak.
Starring Dong-Kun Jang and Jung-Jae Lee.
Release Year:  2005

Review Date:  5/27/06


The DC Film Society screened "Typhoon" this week, a Korean blockbuster that has made its way to the States...reminiscent of the last Korean action film that I saw, "Shiri", the story of a South Korean good guy versus a North Korean bad guy made me think even in my very limited exposure that these guys have to fall in love with a different storyline!

South Korean naval officer Se-jong Kang (Lee Jung-jae), who is apparently the James Bond-ish agent available at the time, is tasked with taking down a murderous North Korean pirate (Jang Dong-kun) that has stolen U.S.-bred weapons from a tanker en route to Asia.  Along the way, Kang learns that this pirate is also trying to locate his long-lost sister; the pirate and his sister were separated at a young age when they initially tried to escape the horrors of North Korea, losing their family in the process.  When Kang locates the sister (Lee Mi-yeon), he uses her as bait to lure the pirate out of hiding...and then the international action kicks off with a bang!

I always admire the passion that actors in Asian films bring to the table; I almost always think that the filmmaking in their films is middling, and that's the case again here with "Typhoon", which has all the makings of greatness (two stark-opposite leads that respect each other, the international locations that range from Korean to Russia, the crisp action sequences) but fails in its ability to smoothly integrate a background story with the characters' personalities and their goals.  What do I mean?  The backdrop of North vs. South is a realistic one for why this pirate is so pissed off all movie long, especially given what happened to his family...but, by having a hero that is almost devoid of personality (more a script issue than anything else) AND one that doesn't seem to give a rat's ass about where this baddie is coming from, you don't feel anything as you watch the good guy try to track the bad guy down to bring him to justice.  In fact, Kang has almost nothing to say in trying to track down the pirate in terms of dialogue...and, you get the inexplicable "I respect my enemy--I've got a point-blank shot--I've already tried to kill him twice in this movie alone--let me let him survive for another hour so we can have another stare down" moment...this is SO Asian cinema!

This film looks like a blowout, though, in most other ways, and as a thrill ride, "Typhoon" has many other elements of "The Bourne Identity" or anything Bond or even the recent "Mission: Impossible" films, in terms of the globetrotting.  I loved the performance by Jang as the baddie...damn, he looks pissed off, and the emotion that comes with his character's first reunion with his sister was awesome.  And, the action doesn't mess around--people DIE in this one, with the PG-13 gods nowhere near this puppy!  "Typhoon" isn't bad, but it felt like a few simple touches (and some help with the editing; jeez!) could have made this one great.

Rating:  Matinee


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09