blogging by Andrew Wickliffe

Typhoon (2005, Kwak Kyung-taek)

Typhoon is the biggest budgeted South Korean film to date. The money’s well spent, as the film looks like any big budget film. If there are any massive amounts of CG, they’d be at the end, during the storm, which happens at night, making things a lot easier. However, the budget can’t fix any of Typhoon’s problems, since they’re all from the writer-director, Kwak Kyung-Taek, apparently thinks GoldenEye is the action movie template to follow. Had Typhoon just been a remake of GoldenEye in a Korean context, I wouldn’t have complained… because GoldenEye was at least stimulating. Typhoon takes the structure of GoldenEye and some other Bond films and removes all the wit, however forced, and replaces it with moroseness. Typhoon is a would-be heavy film, but it doesn’t even fail to be heavy, it’s just too fake.

The film’s soullessness is peculiar, because it’s almost unique. It’s not a dumb American action movie–though it tries at times and fails because Kwak cannot direct exciting scenes–and it doesn’t want to be (the heavy elements). It wants to be something in between and can’t make it, because Kwak’s script is awful. His characters are entirely flat and go through the exceptionally long two hour film with about enough depth for ten minutes. None of the actors have any fun. Jang Dong-Kun, as the bad guy, doesn’t have any flourishes or any real personality… except he really and truly cares for his men–oh, Kwak also really likes Heat, more on that “influence” later. I was excited to see Typhoon because Lee Jung-Jae’s in it and he’s not particularly prolific and I can truly say I’ve never seen a more bored performance. Lee’s character is the most shallow–imagine a not cocky Tom Cruise action hero–and Lee the actor’s so visibly disinterested, you wish he could just get killed off. The only scenes of interest involve Jang’s sister and then both he and Lee perk up a little. The scenes between the two of them, when Kwak pretends they’re alter egos, produce the film’s most eye-rolling moments. The rest of the time it’s boring, which might mean the eye-rolling scenes are actually more engaging–my first use of engaging as a pejorative.

Frighteningly, Typhoon did get me interested in seeing Martin Campbell’s upcoming Casino Royale, just because if I want to see a pseudo-heavy James Bond movie, I’ll see a pseudo-heavy James Bond movie. It’s also got me terrified of Kwak’s other films, as at least one of them is on my to-watch list.

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