Peninsula (2020, Yeon Sang-ho)

Peninsula is the sequel to Train to Busan but more like it just takes place in the same universe. It’s part of the Train to Busan Extended Universe, much like Land of the Dead would’ve been part of the Night of the Living Dead Extended Universe. And watching Peninsula, you realize just how much it helped having the good actors in the first one and the whole “zombies on a train” thing going because without the train and without Ma Dong-seok? Writer and director Yeon doesn’t so much flounder as flap uncontrollably. Peninsula is a hodgepodge of borrowed ideas—okay, what if it’s a heist movie but also Escape from New York but also Land of the Dead but also Fury Road but also Fast & Furious.

And Jurassic Park III, can’t forget Jurassic Park III.

The only thing impressive about Yeon’s script is how quickly he moves from one ripped off item to another.

But the film isn’t really anything “with zombies” because there aren’t a lot of zombies. Most of the movie is exceptionally ineffective lead Gang Dong-won trying to rescue his brother-in-law (Kim Do-yoon, who fails to be sympathetic in his helplessness and is just annoying) from crazed Army sergeant Kim Min-jae. Kim works for Koo Gyo-hwan (who’s playing one of those slimy officers who doesn’t know what’s really going on with his men, which sadly doesn’t turn out to be a Good, the Bad, and the Ugly reference because it would’ve been a good reference and the film doesn’t do those). They were supposed to be rescuing people but then the world quarantined the Korean Peninsula–Peninsula, get it—abandoning not just the stranded military and Korean citizens, but countless zombies as well.

The zombies aren’t really important.

They run. It’s important they run. But they’re not important. Kim’s important. Koo’s important. Now, both Kim and Koo give bad performances—actually it’s possible Kim’s performance is fine but his terrible mullet wig is ruining things. Lots of bad wigs in Peninsula. Lots of bad technicals, unfortunately.

The last twenty-five minutes of the movie, which manages to have multiple terrible endings, all of them protracted, also has some rather godawful CGI car chasing a la a Fast & Furious mockbuster. Gang’s teamed up with badass survivor woman Lee Jung-hyun, who’s got two adorable and badass zombie-killer daughters, tween Lee Re and, you know, nine year-old Lee Ye-won. The big drive-out at the end has Lee Re driving one car, Gang in another, and Kim and the bad guys in pursuit. The special effects are ambitious in it’s a bold move to try to do the kind of composites Yeon executes without a lot of budget. Ambition aside, it’s a complete fail, with the CGI so limited there aren’t even figures driving the cars during the exterior shots.

And it’s boring.

Peninsula is a boring, grim-dark action movie without any likable characters, at best mediocre performances (Lee Jung-hyun and the daughters are fine, like… the kids are cute and it’s believable Mom’s not putting up with Gang’s bullshit). The more interesting movie is what happened to them before they met Gang and Kim, but whatever. Nothing is the interesting choice in Peninsula.

Not even when Yeon apparently gives Gang an unlimited ammo cheat code, which just makes you wonder why Gang will occasionally stop shooting the (rarely) approaching zombies at dramatic moments but have thirty rounds for the next thirty zombies to get to the next set piece, which will be from an entirely different movie.

It could be worse, sure, but it’s pretty bad. Bad enough I’m surprised it’s from the same filmmaker as the original. If you’re going to do a sellout sequel, at least be do it entertainingly. And with the right CGI ambitions for your budget.

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