The Yellow Sea

3 out of 5 stars
Ha Jung-woo in The Yellow Sea
Ha Jung-woo in The Yellow Sea

Time Out says

3 out of 5 stars

Life is hard for Gu-nam (Ha), a half-Chinese, half-Korean cabdriver forced to fend for himself in the crime-ridden interzone between Russia and North Korea. So of course he's susceptible to a proposal from small-time racketeer Myun (Kim): If Gu-nam goes to Seoul and kills a man, he'll get a nice fat fee. It's an offer he can't refuse, especially since the cabbie's long-lost wife is somewhere in the big city. So our hapless hero is smuggled into South Korea, starts casing his victim's apartment and goes in search of his MIA spouse. Then things go wrong, as they're bound to with such "foolproof" plans, and Gu-nam suddenly finds himself caught between the law and the local criminal kingpin. Worse, Myun comes looking for his employee---and when this gentleman from the provinces becomes upset, he tends to get a little liberal regarding his use of axes and butcher knives.

Forget the titular mention of yellow; Na Hong-jin's nail-biter is ruled by the color red, and once the planned assassination goes south, the film slows down its breakneck pace only in order to gorily dispatch a supporting character or two (or six). The director specializes in extended cat-and-mouse games---his previous film wasn't called The Chaser for nothing. But his skills essentially begin and end there, and as with its predecessor, The Yellow Sea is far less interested in character than in choreographing pursuit scenes spiced with Asia Extreme levels of violence. Like fellow countryman Park Chan-wook's vengeful epics, this man-on-the-run thriller knows how to deliver a rush; unlike those superior tales of lives on the edge, that's the only trick up its sleeve.

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