Anyone looking for some of the most exciting films being made today need look no further than South Korea, for directors like Chan-wook Park (Oldboy), Kim Ki-duk (Spring, Summer, Autumn, Winter And Spring), and Bong Joon-ho (Memories Of Murder), to name a few. Cinematically speaking, it's a 2006 kind of country. But no one seems to have told writer-director Kwak Kyung-Taek, whose massive political thriller Typhoon seems stuck in 1988.
Billed as the biggest production in the history of Korean film, Typhoon doesn't lack ambition either technically or thematically. It follows the story of a North Korean refugee-turned-pirate (Jang Don Gun) who shanghais an American ship in order to exact revenge on both halves of the Korean peninsula. Out to stop him is Special Agent Jack Ryan err, Lee Jung-Jae, who traces his path across Thailand and Russia, and finally out to sea.
The outsized effort is up there on the screen, but there's nothing too striking about the way it's presented, and the story does even less to impress: It loses its sense of political urgency by relying on melodramatic clichés (the bad guy has a dying sister) and rhythms that are all too familiar from the big-budget American films it sets out to emulate. This may be the biggest production in Korean-film history, but viewers should search elsewhere for a better sampling of what the country has to offer. They won't even need to search too far.