The Advocate: A Missing Body gets an English subtitled trailer

The Advocate: A Missing Body (성난 변호사)

The Advocate: A Missing Body (성난 변호사)

The Advocate: A Missing Body (성난 변호사) – or more literally translated as Angry Attorney – has received an English subtitled trailer ahead of its release on October 8th in Korea.

The film stars Lee Seon-gyoon as top lawyer Byeon Ho-seong, an arrogant man with a reputation for winning even the most difficult cases despite the odds. Yet when a new case presents itself, one without any evidence or even a body, he is forced to team with Kim Go-eun’s prosecutor Jin Seon-min, whereby the duo begin to learn of an insidious plot.

The Advocate is the second film by director Huh Jong-Ho, who previously helmed crime thriller Countdown with Jeon Do-yeon and Jung Jae-young.

Actor Lee Seon-gyoon is red hot at the moment having recently starred in a strong of celebrated films including A Hard Day, Our Sunhi, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon, and All About My Wife. Kim Go-eun has also been busy cementing her status among the A-list since her debut in A Muse, with turns in Memories of the Sword and Coin Locker Girl.

For the trailer The Advocate: A Missing Body, please see below.

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A Hard Day (끝까지 간다) – ★★★★☆

A Hard Day (끝까지 간다)

A Hard Day (끝까지 간다)

When internal affairs unexpectedly show up at the precinct and begin to investigate, corrupt detective Go Geun-soo (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균) is forced to make excuses at his late mother’s funeral and race back to prevent his guilt from being unearthed. Driving fast and stressed from his predicament, Go accidently hits and kills a passerby. Secretly disposing of the body and cunningly destroying evidence of his involvement, Go believes he’s in the clear…until he receives an anonymous phone call from a witness (Jo Jin-woong (조진웅) threatening to reveal his sordid crime. Unless Go complies with the demands his world will be over, beginning a frantic game of suspense as they battle to emerge victorious and unscathed.

Already under investigation, detective Go accidently kills a pedestrian and must hide his involvement

Already under investigation, detective Go accidently kills a pedestrian and must hide his involvement

From the moment it begins, A Hard Day is an exciting, captivating, and down right thrilling cinematic joyride. Writer/director Kim Seong-hoon (김성훈) has crafted an enthralling and suspense fuelled tale that constantly keeps the audience guessing, through the incorporation of a variety of inspired set-pieces that takes staples of the genre yet reinvents them enough to keep them fresh and appealing. Whether it be the initial hit-and-run incident, the disposal of the body, car chases or physical combat, director Kim builds tension brilliantly to consistently excite and entertain. Alongside editor Kim Chang-ju, who sutures the scenes to incredible effect, the duo have combined to create some of the most gratifying and well made action-thriller sequences in recent memory. Yet despite all the conflict and terrifying situations that arise, the film is never morbid due to the dark ironic humour laced throughout that adds genuine laugh-out-loud moments to the proceedings, a real rarity that serves to both inspire and rejuvenate a genre that has, of late, become quite stagnant. As such the 2 hour and 30 minute running time simply flies by, making A Hard Day one of the most entertaining filmic experiences of the year, and well deserving of its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival.

Detective Go confronts his nemesis to surprising results

Detective Go confronts his nemesis to surprising results

Central to the enjoyment of A Hard Day are the wonderfully charismatic performances of Lee Seon-gyoon and Jo Jin-woong. Lee is great as corrupt detective Go, effectively conveying the anti-hero as selfish and unethical but also quite likable and ultimately sympathetic given the fraught circumstances that arise. Lee has an ‘everyman’ quality that he employs effortlessly throughout the film that generates an acute connection with the audience, so much so that it’s entirely possible to forgive Go for his dishonesty and actually root for him as the underdog victim. Jo, meanwhile, appears to absolutely relish the opportunity portraying the villainous blackmailer, to the point where despite his supporting actor status, he threatens to steal the film every time he appears on screen. He is a hulking pillar of evil, yet his comic timing and delivery are so comically entertaining that he’s impossible to dislike, adding a wonderfully fresh dimension to the relationship between the antagonists that is consistently fascinating to watch unfold.

The situation reaches breaking point as the two clash

The situation reaches breaking point as the two clash

Verdict:

A Hard Day is one of the most exciting and entertaining action-thrillers of the year. Director Kim Seong-hoon has crafted a thoroughly engaging, suspenseful and darkly humourous tale of corruption that consistently feels fresh through the reinvention of genre traits. Featuring highly charismatic performances from leads Lee Seon-gyoon and Jo Jin-woong, A Hard Day is a thrilling cinematic joyride from start to finish.

★★★★☆

Busan International Film Festival (제19회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2014 Reviews
Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원) – ★★★★☆

Nobody's Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원)

Director Hong Sang-soo’s (홍상수) 14th feature film Nobody’s Daughter Haewon (누구의 딸도 아닌 해원) is a wonderfully charming and beautifully endearing tale. The film received it’s world premiere at Berlin before invitations to festivals throughout Europe, the Americas, Asia and Oceania, which are a testament to not only director Hong’s popularity but also for the seemingly effortless sincerity captured within the story.

Fans and newcomers alike will find much to enjoy from Nobody’s Daughter Haewon. Director Hong has infused the film with his trademark nuanced style, employing a subtle and understated method that belies the depth and symbolism within, while also referencing previous works. Yet the film is also notably given heart and soul by the quite lovely performance of Jeong Eun-chae (정은채) as Haewon, a young woman struggling to reconcile her identity and place in the world.

Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Haewon meets Seong-joon, the married professor with whom she has an on-and-off affair

Haewon (Jeong Eun-chae (정은채) is a lonely film and acting university student who, due to her attractiveness and strength of character, is often set apart from her classmates. When her mother announces that she intends to live in Canada, Haewon’s loneliness increases dramatically leading to a reunion with married professor Seong-joon (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균), with whom she has an on-and-off affair. As the couple begin to rekindle their feelings for each other through dates at a traditional park and an old hiking trail, their interactions become increasingly fraught.

Director Hong’s seemingly effortless, almost meandering style perfectly captures the inner turmoil of his lead protagonist. His deceptively simple camera movements and mise-en-scene may appear whimsical at first glance, which is indeed part of the film’s charm, yet there is also symbolic depth within every frame. The empty – and previously restricted – park, the uphill struggles of hiking, the overbearing statues and so forth all emphasise Haewon’s evolving psychology following the departure of her mother and rekindling of a self-destructive relationship. Director Hong employs such aesthetics in conjunction with his trademark ‘repetition with difference’ sequences, and as such each time an interaction is conducted the subtle changes produce alternative meanings and endings that are fascinating to watch unfold. In constructing such repetition seamlessly within the story, each ‘chapter’ – or rather reenactment – is a product of Haewon’s diary entries or dreams adding further allure as she is very much in control of the unfolding events, further accentuated through her occasional narration.

Haewon's dreams and diary entries mark different 'chapters', or rather renactments, within the film

Haewon’s dreams and diary entries mark different ‘chapters’, or rather reenactments, within the film

This would of course mean very little if Haewon was unlikeable, however actress Jeong Eun-chae is wonderfully charismatic throughout. In what is arguably her breakout role, Jeong Eun-chae infuses her character with strengths and flaws in equal measure, conveying a nuanced complexity that is mesmerizing. It’s not so much that her performance is perfect, but that when over-acting or stoicism appears it is wholly natural within the context of the scene. When Haewon meets actress Jane Birkin in the early stages of the film, for example, the awkwardness and slightly cringeworthy moments express not only being star-struck but also Haewon’s desire for a mother-figure to admire and be valued by. Jeong Eun-chae is also great at adapting Haewon as a slightly different person for each repetitive sequence, also symbolised by her striking red and autumnal coloured clothing. The subtle changes, as well as the criticisms and compliments that come her way, are all indicative of a young woman attempting to establish her identity through dreams and diary recollections, and are consistently lovely to watch unfold.

That said, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon will not be for everyone. Critics of director Hong’s style will undoubtedly find the same issues within this film as they have in his previous works. The story does indeed meander; the plot doesn’t progress particularly far due to the repetitive nature of scenes; the intellectual male characters are all indicative of contemporary masculine immaturity. Ultimately it will be down to individual viewers tastes whether such themes are a source of charm or frustration. Yet for fans and audiences interested in non-cliched representations of modern relationships, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon will be a refreshing delight.

Haewon and Seong-joon awkwardly meet another couple in a similar situation at Namhan Fortress

Haewon and Seong-joon awkwardly meet another couple in a similar situation at Namhan Fortress

Verdict:

Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is an incredibly charming and quite lovely film by director Hong San-soo. In depicting lonely film and acting student Haewon as she rekindles an affair with her married professor, a deceptively simple and subtlety nuanced film about identity and direction is constructed, employed through the director’s trademark aesthetics. Jeong Eun-chae is wonderfully charismatic and gives a career best as Haewon. While the story does meander and the male characters are quite immature, Nobody’s Daughter Haewon is a delightful and refreshing tale of modern relationships.

★★★★☆

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013 Reviews
Our Sunhi (우리 선희)

‘Our Sunhi’ (우리 순희) gets a Trailer and Invitation to Locarno Film Festival

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Our Sunhi (우리 순희)

Director Hong Sang-soo’s (홍상수) latest film Our Sunhi (우리 순희) has been invited to Switzerland’s prestigious Locarno International Film Festival, which is due to commence on the 7th of August.

The film tells the story of Sunhi (Jeong Yu-mi (정유미) who, after graduating with a degree in film, returns to university seeking a letter of recommendation from a professor in order to continue her studies in America. Yet Professor Choi (Kim Sang-joong (김상중) is not simply content to give the letter as he likes her, and attempts to give advice for Sunhi’s future. Complicating matters further, Sunhi meets two other men from her past – film director Moon-soo (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균) and veteran filmmaker Jae-hak (Jeong Jae-yeong (정재영). As they enter her life once more all three men seemingly can’t control their liking of the young woman, and continue to hang around her acting as mentors.

Our Sunhi  is director Hong’s 15th film, and will feature within the ‘Concorso Internazionale’ program of the festival, where it will also receive its world premiere. Please see below for the trailer, which also has English subtitles.

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Kpop star Ga-yeong meets unemployed Jeong-hwan

Romantic Island (로맨틱 아일랜드) – ★★☆☆☆

Romantic Island (로맨틱 아일랜드)

Romantic Island (로맨틱 아일랜드)

The notion of changing the mundane routines of every day life for the sun and sand of a tropical paradise is hardly original in cinematic terms, yet the concept never lacks potency for their depictions of paradise and perhaps – just perhaps – a romantic encounter. From kitchen-sink dramas such as Shirley Valentine (1989), macho debauchery in The Hangover II (2011) to life-affirming family drama The Descendants (2011), the crystal clear waters gently lapping the shore hold a romanticism hard to ignore.

In Romantic Island (로맨틱 아일랜드), the concept is extended into a multi-strand narrative akin to Love Actually (2003) whereby six Koreans, eager to escape their problems and drab lifestyle, pack their bags and jet off to Boracay in The Philippines. The result is an occasionally charming yet odd mixture of underdeveloped characters and stories that never quite gel or convince, with Boracay itself the highlight in an otherwise low-budget affair.

During winter in Seoul, a handful of citizens are enduring hardships difficult to contend with. Stock market worker Kang Jae-hyeok (Lee Seon-gyoon (이선균) who is not only in danger of losing his job, but has just lost his father; Choi Soo-jin (Lee Soo-kyeong (이수경) who dislikes her job, is fed up with being selfless, and desires to travel; Lee Jeong-hwan (Lee Min-ki (이민기) is unemployed and newly single; Yoo Ga-yeong (Yoo Jin (유진) is an over-worked K-pop idol with low self-esteem; and couple Lee Yeon-sook (Lee Il-hwa (이일화) and Park Joong-sik (Lee Moon-sik (이문식), who have lived a comfortable existence until Joong-sik was recently diagnosed with a brain tumor. Escaping to Boracay either to resolve or flee their problems, all six learn the value of having someone special in life.

Jae-hyeok forms a relationship with Soo-jin

Jae-hyeok forms a relationship with Soo-jin

While the exotic locations within Romantic Island are a visual treat, there is unfortunately no escaping the fact that the romantic comedy is a rather dull and contrived film. To be fair, the tongue-in-cheek and knowingly cliched nature of the narrative means Romantic Island never intends to aim higher than crowd-pleasing entertainment, yet the film features an array of shortcomings that detract from its enjoyability. Chief among the criticisms is the unbalanced time allocated to each couple. Jae-hyuk and Soo-jin are primarily focused on in terms of character development, while Ga-yeong and Jeong-hwan are generally limited to an attractive couple enjoying themselves in montages. The final couple, Yeon-sook and Joong-sik, are virtually left on the sidelines for the duration and utilised to usher in the more silly gangster elements within the film. The inclusion of criminality with Romantic Island is intentionally daft but also quite bizarre, featuring camp swindling Koreans and Filipino child assassins. This would be fine except for the fact that their addition is distracting contrived, and, most importantly, that they are simply not funny.

Aside from a few scenes, comedy is sadly lacking throughout the film. The dramatic threads that attempt to take its place are interesting and have potential, yet are never developed into something for audiences to highly empathize with. Jae-hyeok visits The Philippines as his father, who abandoned his son and re-married in the country, has died. Soo-jin is sick of her job and selflessly providing for her family, providing impetus for travel. While the duo attempt to help each other address their problems, the issues are not developed enough to be compelling nor the resolutions enough to be convincing. Similarly Kpop idol Ga-yeong and unemployed Jeong-hwan have little purpose other than to portray an attractive young couple. The most compelling narrative thread belongs to Joong-sik who, diagnosed with a brain tumour, wishes to die and leave the life insurance money for his family leading to darkly comic and tragically romantic scenes. However as he and his wife are sidelined, their story receives little attention.

Kpop star Ga-yeong meets unemployed Jeong-hwan

Kpop star Ga-yeong meets unemployed Jeong-hwan

Director Kang Cheol-woo (강철우) competently creates Lee Jeong-sub’s (이정섭) script although the low production values are unfortunately quite clear, particularly when editing between the gorgeous beaches of Boracay and the studio-built interiors. As such Romantic Island feels like a TV movie, although the beautiful locations are impossible to dislike and are distracting enough to largely overlook such shortcomings.

The acting by all involved is ably performed, although to be fair none of the actors are stretched into new territory due to the relative lack of dramatic scenes. Despite this the character of each protagonist is competently conveyed as the stereotypes they are intended to be – the obstinate businessman, the peppy family girl, the cute relaxed bum, the spoilt princess, and so forth – and are enjoyable albeit predictable.

Couple Yeon-sook and Joong-sik strengthen their relationship in Boracay

Couple Yeon-sook and Joong-sik strengthen their relationship in Boracay

Verdict:

It is impossible not to won over by the beautiful Boracay beaches in Romantic Island, and the premise of disenchanted citizens seeking escapist pastures is as sound as ever. Yet the unbalanced time allocations for each couple, the contrivances within the narrative and the general absence of comedy ultimately detract from the entertainment value. Despite this Romantic Island is a ‘feel-good’ film that will undoubtedly please the tourist board of The Philippines.

★★☆☆☆

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