- Asian Cinema


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Link to YesAsia

The City of Violence
Jjakpae (2006). South Korea. Directed by Ryoo Seung-wan.
Cast: Jeong Doo-hong, Ryoo Seung-wan, Lee Beom-soo, Jeong Seok-yong, An Gil-gang, Kim Seo-hyung, Kim Byeong-ok, On Ju-wan

This is the story about five childhood friends who were once inseparable, but 10 years later things have changed. The group has been scattered to the wind, and fate has not treated them like the equals they used to be.

When one of them, Wang-jae, a struggling bar owner, is killed by a couple of young gangsters, the remaining friends gather at his funeral. Believing that there's more to Wang-jae's death than meets the eye, two of the friends, Tae-soo - a cop from Seoul - and Seok-hwan - a two-bit gangster - decide to investigate. They soon find themselves in open battle with the youth-gangs of the area, but they also discover that the truth behind their friend's death is a lot more disturbing than they could ever have imagined...

"The City of Violence" wastes no time getting to the good stuff. With its blend of soulful reminiscence about the past, and violent large scale fight-scenes, director Ryoo Seung-wan (who also stars as Seok-hwan) spins an exhilarating tale that deserves its place in the sun. A modern gangster movie of a familiar, but still highly engaging, sort. The climactic fight alone should earn the film praise, as it sees our heroes take on the bad guy, and about a thousand of his goons, in a spectacular fight that easily rivals the end sequence of "Kill Bill, volume 1" in ingenuity, if not in gore.

All excess baggage has been stripped from the story, and at a little over 90 minutes, "The City of Violence" feels like a breeze. It's mad dash for the finishing line, means it rushes from one set-piece to the next, without ever stopping to catch its breath, making it one helluva lean, mean ride of a movie. A ride that's definitely worth taking.

David Bjerre
January 14, 2007