Tag Archives: Dalparan

Assassination (2015, Choi Dong-hoon)

Assassination is not effortless. Director Choi makes it look effortless, whether he’s doing an intricate action sequence or one of the film’s many complicated expository scenes. But then there’s also the entire structure of the film, which opens with one character as protagonist, slowly moves to another, but keeps the initial character around as antagonist. All of the film’s storytelling gymnastics work because Choi actually wants to let his actors impress, not the plot machinations.

The script, from Choi and Lee Ki-cheol, is phenomenally constructed. Assassination is about Korean freedom fighters–in 1933–plotting to assassinate a Japanese general and a collaborating Korean businessman. There’s all sorts of double-crossing, all sorts of complications. Choi takes his time with what should otherwise be contrivances, working the scenes–in no small part thanks to some beautiful photography from Kim Woo-hyung–until he finds the honesty in them. Choi, through his direction and he and Lee’s script, wants the viewer to understand what Assassination is doing and how it’s getting there. There’s a sincerity, which lets contrivances pass, but there’s also the acting.

Great performances all around. Jun Ji-hyun, Ha Jung-woo and Lee Jung-jae are the leads, but it takes the film a while to get them all introduced. Assassination runs almost two and a half hours and couldn’t really be any shorter. When Choi does run into problems, it’s because he can’t go twice as long. But the supporting cast is all great too–especially Oh Dal-su and Jo Jin-woong.

Only in the last few minutes of the film does Choi go too far. He knows he can do it, but his victory lap–which is a combination of that sincerity towards the filmmaking and letting his actors show their considerable talent–is one too many. I’m not sure where Choi could’ve taken Assassination to maintain the sublimeness he finds in combining period espionage and action and, although I wish he’d found it, he brings the film to an uneven, but considerably successful conclusion.

Assassination is excellent, epic filmmaking. Somewhat odd title though. A little too on the nose.

3.5/4★★★½

CREDITS

Directed by Choi Dong-hoon; written by Choi and Lee Ki-cheol; director of photography, Kim Woo-hyung; edited by Sin Min-kyeong; music by Jang Young-gyu and Dalparan; production designer, Ryu Seong-hie; produced by Ahn Soo-hyun and Choi; released by Showbox.

Starring Jun Ji-hyun (An Ok-yun), Ha Jung-woo (Hawaii Pistol), Lee Jung-jae (Yeom Seok-jin), Jo Jin-woong (Sok-sapo), Choi Duek-mun (Hwang Dok-sam), Oh Dal-su (Young-gam), Heo Ji-won (Myeong-Woo), Lee Kyoung-young (Kang In-Gook), Kim Eui-sung (the butler), Park Byung-eun (Kawaguchi) and Kim Hae-suk (the bar owner).


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For the Emperor (2014, Park Sang-jun)

For the Emperor is a combination of bloody and pointless. Director Park is sort of impersonal about the violence–even though it’s usually very personal (knife fights)–as though giving it some distance will make the characters seem less reprehensible. Lee Yong-soo’s screenplay barely shows any of the victims of the gangsters; it’s all just tough bad men versus other though bad men.

They’re just boring tough bad men.

Lee Min-ki’s the lead. He’s a disgraced, betting baseball player who ends up collecting for loan sharks. Because in addition to being a not so great relief pitcher, he’s unbeatable in a fight (until the plot requires him to lose one) and really good at gambling. Park Sung-woong, as an established mid-level gangster, takes him in and cultivates him into… well, into a focused psychopath.

Park Sung-woong’s really, really good in the film. He just doesn’t have anything to do. Lee’s not really good, but he’s decent enough for the script. There’s very little ambition to Emperor, though director Park tries to do a lot of flashy montages (often well edited and occasionally with good music) to hide the weak plot twists.

There’s some good direction, but then Park will do one of the terrible sex scenes between Lee and his madame girlfriend (Lee Tae-im); they’re terrible and go on forever. Occasionally nicely scored though.

Emperor isn’t tough enough or ambitious enough to be offensive. It’s competent and occasionally interesting and mostly decently acted. Mostly.

1/4

CREDITS

Directed by Park Sang-jun; screenplay by Lee Yong-soo, based on a comic book by Kim Seong-dong; director of photography, Cha Taek-gyun; edited by Kim Chang-ju and Park Kyong-sook; music by Dalparan; production designer, Park Je-hyeon; produced by Lee Tae-hun; released by Next Entertainment World.

Starring Lee Min-ki (Lee Hwan), Park Sung-woong (Jeong Sang-ha), Lee Tae-im (Cha Yeon-soo), Kim Jong-gu (Han-deuk), Jeong Heung-chae (Straw Cutter) and Lee Jae-won (Kyeong-soo).


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