Capsule Movie Reviews Vol.2018.1
Published by marco on
These are my notes to remember what I watched and kinda what I thought about it. I’ve recently transferred my reviews to IMDb and made the list of almost 1200 ratings publicly available. I’ve included the individual ratings with my notes for each movie. These ratings are not absolutely comparable to each other—I rate the film on how well it suited me for the genre and my mood. YMMV. Also, I make no attempt to avoid spoilers.
- Oh, Hello On Broadway (2017) — 8/10
- Nick Kroll and John Mulaney star as Gil Faizon and George St. Geegland, respectively, two old Jewish guys from the upper-west side in New York City. They complain, they reminisce, they go through an eviction as their rent-controlled apartment is suddenly no longer rent-controlled. They achieve success with a screenplay and get back into their apartment. They drop names, they make inside jokes about New York, they have cameos by Steve Martin and Matthew Broderick. Overall, I quite enjoyed it. Those two guys are pretty talented and inventive. At least some of the dialogue seemed improvised, but that could just be how good they are. It was very satisfyingly New York-y, so it might not be nearly as enjoyable if you don’t get inside jokes about New York that span about five decades.
- Todd Barry: Spicy Honey (2017) — 9/10
- I’d never heard of him before, but he made me laugh out loud several times. His comedy is quiet and mostly clean but still relatively edgy and interesting. Intelligent and cynical. I really liked him.
- Tom Segura: Disgraceful (2017) — 8/10
- Some of his material is a little forced but he’s a very funny guy. His comedy was a bit more standard than Barry’s (above) but still very well-delivered and fun.
- Stranger Things S02 (2017) — 8/10
- The second season brings the whole gang back together. It also introduces a couple of new characters: in particular, Max Mayfield and her step-brother Billy Hargrove. The focus is, once again, on Will and his strange connection to the upside-down. We find out a bit more about Elle’s background as well as watch her powers grow. We find out more about how the upside-down functions and see the gang thwart an attack by the smoke monster, the seeming leader of the upside-down. Steve Harrington and Sheriff Hooper are the best characters. I liked Bob (Sean Astin) too, while he lasted. Everyone else spends way too much time mooning about and looking like they’re about to cry. Still a fun 9 episodes, but not as good as the first season.
- American Gods S01 (2017) — 8/10
This is a TV series that follows the plot of the book of the same name. The plot follows the book quite closely. Laura’s role is considerably expanded, though I don’t know how to feel about that. She’s not a nice person, but I feel the series pulling me to empathize with her. She’s thin as a rail and I feel the series expecting me to find her hot. She’s manipulative and it’s nice to see Shadow at least partially resist that pull.
In the book, she was much more of a Deus Ex Machine (if you’ll excuse the phrase); in the series, she’s very prominent. She’s well-played as a relatively dull—though she thinks she’s brilliant—and blithely entitled woman who sees the world only in relation to herself. Nothing is her fault. Things happen to her. Her phrasing is perfect. Instead of remorse, she claims no agency over the things she’s done—which is why she so quickly expects Shadow to get past her crimes against him. She doesn’t feel she’s at fault, so sees no reason why he would blame her and perhaps love her less—or not at all. Also, she’s dead, which she so easily overlooks and her ego allows her to be surprised that Shadow won’t do so—at least not so easily.
At the end of the first season, the focus is split nearly evenly on Laura and Shadow Moon. Laura is not an appealing or interesting character, really. She’s kind of one-dimensional. We find out that she died because Mad Sweeney killed her on Wednesday’s orders. This is a deviation from the book,
but a decent one. It works within the context, within the world of the book. The balance to having to see so much of Emily Browning’s simpering, anorexic acting is that we also get to see a lot more of Pablo Schreiber’s Mad Sweeney.
The story is stretched more than the book, but it’s interesting so far. There is a lushness to the lingering looks at the various Gods and their origin stories. The direction and cinematography are very nice, in general.
- Katt Williams (2018) — 8/10
- He knows his audience and the man does research. He knows Jacksonville like the back of his hand, knows landmarks, knows fast-food menus in detail. He’s very funny, he’s not nearly as dirty as I expected him to be. He covers police violence, Trump, fast food, Arby’s, Jacksonville, robot sex, Obama (becoming more white every day), relationship advice (do more fuckin’), Viagra (it makes your dick bigger than you’ve ever seen; you won’t even want to touch it because you think it belongs to someone else). His set is a mockup of the oval office.
- Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency S02 (2017) — 8/10
- Dirk and Todd (Samuel Barnett and Elijah Wood, respectively) are back, with Amanda (Todd’s sister, Hannah Marks), the excellent Fiona Dourif as Bart, the supernaturally and preternaturally untouchable assassin, Farah Black (also excellent Jade Eshete) and Ken (Mpho Koaho), who is no longer paired with Bart, but is now clawing his way up the rungs of Blackwing. The whole cast is quite good and includes a slew of new characters, two excellent sheriffs of a small town where the latest oddness occurs, as well as Amanda’s crew from season one, the baddies from Blackwing and tons of new characters from the fantasy land of Wendimoor, which seems to have been dreamed into existence by a small, gifted boy. The crew tries to solve the 50-year-old mystery of the boy’s parents’ deaths as well as to stop the Mage of Wendimoor from ruining both his world and our own. Susie Borton is in the mix trying to make herself queen of one world or another with her new-found powers and magic wand. An all-around entertaining and escapist romp with a bit of mind-bending holisticity and philosophy thrown in.
- Black Mirror S04 (2017) — 8/10
The USS Callister is a ship in a simulation in a video game, but it’s not the online version of the game—it’s the private, customized version written by the CTO of the company that runs the real game. He lives out his fantasies in this version, with perfect simulacra of his co-workers, generated from DNA samples that he steals from around the office. The crew rebels and hatches a plan to escape into death, beyond the reach of their captain.
The second episode is “Arkangel”. it is about an implant that transmits everything that a person sees and hears. A woman implants one into her young daughter as part of a pilot program. It comes with parental controls so that disturbing (cortisone-triggering) content is automatically filtered. This causes the young girl to act in a disturbed manner and the mother turns off the filter—and stops watching her daughter, as well. During her teenage years, she starts watching again, catching her daughter having sex and doing drugs. The daughter finds out, confronts her, beats her with the tracking pad and runs away from home.
The third is called “Crocodile” and imagines what society is like once a memory-retrieval device has been invented. Instead of the police using it, this episode shows how insurance companies would use it to settle disputes. It’s mentioned that the law requires people to comply with having their memories read. But what if the memory they read involves more than the case at hand? What if something very bad was done? Well, then, the person whose memory is being read may want to eliminate the insurance agent.
The fourth “Hang the DJ” was probably the best of the season. It was about a dating service run through dictatorial and inscrutable, single-purpose, hand-held devices. The dating game has been subjected wholly to algorithms. A couple is given 16 hours to be together, but both feel a spark. They are connected with others, sometimes for short flings, sometimes for years. They both suffer through, realizing that they yearn for each other. They meet occasionally and cannot resist. Finally, the algorithm pairs them again—and this time they agree not to check the expiration date. He breaks down and does, only to find that it punished him by cutting a planned 5-year relationship to 12 hours. Incensed, they rebel—and discover what they really are, that the algorithm is even more meta than expected.
“Metalhead” is an almost dialogue-less vision of a future world where scavengers scrabble to survive and possessions are guarded by vicious, beweaponed and autonomous “dogs”. The episode deals with one woman’s fight with a particularly persistent one, eventually winning a Pyrrhic victory.
“Black Museum” was also quite good, It’s about a museum run by a neurological researcher/marketing man who put together a set of displays based on his work: implanting personalities into other people’s heads, recording a person’s entire self and then torturing it. The twist ending is worth it.
- Rotten (2017) — 8/10
- There are six parts to this documentary: Honey, Peanuts/Allergies, Garlic, Chickens, Milk Money. Each is quite well-made, evenly distributing coverage for both sides of an issue, digging into some detail but not too much. The episodes definitely give enough time to each topic—sometimes too much time. Most of the focus is on the over-industrialization of agriculture, on the lack of anti-trust regulation, lack of environmental regulation, lack of labor regulation—all that leads to suffering on all sides, from labor to consumer.
- Dave Chappelle: Equanimity (2017) — 10/10
- Dave Chappelle proves once again why he’s the best. His long show ebbs and flows and delights. It’s not boring, he telegraphs lines that he still lands, he addresses the madness of American society. He tackles tough topics and simultaneously addresses them seriously and makes them hilarious. He lands his telegraphed line one more time at the very end, capping a fantastic set. Recommended.
- Todd Glass: Act Happy (2018) — 8/10
- Todd’s not afraid to try something different. Some of his jokes fell a bit flat, but his delivery is good and unique. He had a backup band that he integrated into his act. The older he gets, the more he looks and sounds like Henry Rollins. His final 15 is really good: a manically delivered litany of jokes he won’t do and pronouncements/jokes about his generation and the next, about being optimistic that the next generation is going to figure things out and get rolling without our help, despite all appearances. Recommended.
- Fate of the Furious (2017) — 7/10
- This 8th installment in the series had a solid final third and most of the rest of it was more than bearable. It focuses more on driving again and a bit less on hand-to-hand combat. The prison-escape scene with the Rock and Statham was a lot of fun. Both of those guys bring a lot to the party, with Vin Diesel being OK but a bit weak in comparison. The new enemy is Cypher, played by Charlize Theron. She gets leverage on Dom (wife and heretofore-unknown baby) to make him work for her—and against his team. That’s the whole second act. The third act involves him rebelling and springing a trap on her that ends up with everything being OK again. Jesus Christ, could they have given Charlize Theron more lines? She’s chewing the scenery so hard that she’s making Vin Diesel look like an actor with a light touch.
- Halloween (1978) — 6/10
- The very first film in what would become a long-running series was a simple story: a young boy kills his sister on Halloween. He is committed for life to an insane asylum. He escapes on a rainy night, returning to his neighborhood and home on Halloween. He takes victim after victim in what would become classic horror-movie tropes (lots of teen sex and incautious treatment of strangers). But John Carpenter was the first. Meyers is eventually defeated but escapes with a seemingly superhuman ability to survive stab wounds as well as falling out of a second-story window. It’s a bit dated, so wasn’t as interesting as the first viewing, so many years ago. Saw it in German.
- I Saw the Devil (2010) — 8/10
It was a little overly gory in some places, but was very good. It’s about an amoral and relentless serial killer who becomes the hunted when he kills a police-officer’s wife.
The police officer (Agent: Joon-hyeok Lee) has the list of suspects narrowed down to four. He beats two of the others down—extracting fake confessions from them—until he hits paydirt with the third one, Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi), an absolutely filthy monster who kidnaps, tortures and kills women for sport and food. The officer catches him, breaks his hand and lets him go (but not before placing a GPS tracker in his gut). He catches him again, slices his Achilles tendon on one leg and lets him go again. He playing with this prey. He catches him again, this time putting him in a hospital and letting him go again. He’s toying with his prey.
This time Kyung-chul knows that he’s being tracked and pukes up the GPS device. He leaves a trail of destruction on his way to Agent’s father-in-law’s, where he concusses him into brain damage and within an inch of his life. He also kills Agent’s sister-in-law. Agent now realizes he’s lost to this monster: he’s lost his wife (and also an unborn child, as Kyung-chul gleefully tells him).
But, as a result of his desire for Hammurabic revenge, he also loses his remaining family—and sees that he himself has become a monster. People are dead because of him and he cannot figure out how to make Kyung-chul suffer enough. He has him trapped, finally, again, for the last time. He sets up a guillotine where Kyung-chul kills himself in his own ancestral home. The revenge is bittersweet—and doesn’t come close to redeeming the Agent, who finally breaks down in tears, his first show of emotion in the whole film.
The aesthetic is one of my favorites: Korean police drama with some well-choreographed action scenes and very strong characters. Their dialogue is sparse: there is no grandstanding by either the Agent or Kyung-chul. Recommended.
- Dirty Money (2018) — 8/10
- This is a Netflix series about several aspects of how our world cheats and steals and sacrifices everything in the temple of Mammon. The first segment tells the story of how Volkswagen used defeat devices to cheat on emissions tests for their TDI clean-diesel engines. Real-life road tests had numbers 40-80x higher than laboratory measurements. And it wasn’t just Volkswagen: it was also Mercedes and BMW that were cheating. Other episodes are about payday loans, about HSBC’s having helped Mexican drug cartels, about Valeant Pharamceutical’s having ripped off both its customers and its investors, about a maple-syrup cartel in Canada (where else?) and, finally, about Trump, the confidence man.
- Bright (2017) — 7/10
- Will Smith brings his inimitable charm to the role of a human police officer (Daryl Ward) in a Los Angeles inhabited by fabulous creatures: mostly orcs and elves, but also some other creatures here and there. Smith’s partner is Nic Jacoby, an orc, who has to work twice as hard to overcome prejudices against orcs. In this world, the orcs were on the wrong side of a war 2000 years ago. The elves were on the right side and are extraordinarily wealthy and powerful. The (very-reluctant) partners stumble upon a scene of slaughter where a young elf (Tikka) steals a wand from a very powerful, very evil elf queen Leilah (Noomi Rapace). Very few people can handle the nearly all-powerful wands and are called “Brights”. Nick and Daryl rescue Tikka and protect her until the final confrontation with Leilah—after run-ins with orc gangs and human and cop gangs. It was OK, but a bit of a hodge-podge without much background.
- The Godfather (1972) — 9/10
- The classic mafia movie tells the story of power passing from father to son in a powerful NY crime family, the Corleones. Vito Corleone has an iron grip that is slowly slipping as he gets older. Others think that can do things better, that drugs is the way to go. Vito wants to stick to gambling and prostitutes and safer, more-honest areas. Disagreements flare, his sons—Santino (Sonny) and Fredo—each screw up in their own way and his youngest, Michael, must step up to take over the family. There are so many well-known scenes: Michael’s getting made with a hit on a high-profile drug dealer and a crooked cop, Sonny’s denouement on the causeway, Corleone’s shadowy meetings and demise in his tomato garden. Micheal flees to Italy, to his hometown of Corleone until the heat dies down from his killings. He returns and ruthlessly asserts himself, offing all of the other crime-family heads. An all-around great movie.
- The Handmaiden (2016) — 9/10
A beautifully made movie, in two parts. It tells the tale of a young girl (Sook-Hee) in a guild of sorts, a guild of thieves and swindlers run by a matriarch and including a Korean man who plays a Japanese Count Fujiwara. They scheme together to take the fortune of a young, innocent heiress (Hideko) who lives with her uncle (Kouzuki), a bibliophile, who wants to marry her himself to get her fortune. They are all Koreans speaking Japanese while in public, in order to appear more noble.
Sook-Hee and Hideko grow closer, with Sook-Hee “teaching” Hideko how to love the Count, who wants to marry her. The plan is for the Count to commit her to an asylum after the wedding, making off with her fortune and paying Sook-Hee handsomely for her trouble. At the end of part I—after about an hour—Hideko shows her true colors and Sook-Hee is committed in her stead, while Hideko leaves the asylum with Fujiwara.
In Part II, we see how this scheme came about, how Hideko is not nearly as naive as we thought in Part I. The reading to which she alludes is to an audience: she reads to paying customers of the count, reading from the count’s voluminous pornography collection. She even participates with them after, mostly in light-to-medium BDSM as well as some light bondage on-stage, to demonstrate scenes from the books she reads. None of this is voluntary. Hideko and Fujiwara plan early to switch Sook-Hee for Hideko at the asylum, scheming to put all of the chess pieces into place.
Fujiwara, however, is unaware (or oblivious) to Hideko and Sook-Hee’s increasing closeness. Hideko takes control after the wedding, with Fujiwara snared by his greed for her fortune. Also, he suspects nothing since Hideko committed Sook-Hee, feinting away from any possible alliance. Sook-Hee escapes during a staged fire and joins Hideko in freedom. Hideko traps Fujiwara with a drugged drink, then sends him to Kouzuki as a “gift”. Kouzuki tortures him in his “basement”, where he chops off fingers and drills holes in his hands. There is also a tank with an octopus, which explains the sloshing noises we heard during the intimated torture of another young woman (Hideko’s mentor)—a torture or sex play for which Kouzuki’s library contains many, many examples. Fujiwara asks for a cigarette, and then another. Kouzuki doesn’t suspect that they are laced with liquid mercury. They succumb to the poison, with Fujiwara seeing in his mind’s eye how he was taken by the two women.
The final scene is more soft-core, with the ladies acting out a fantasy from one of the books that Hideko was forced to read—celebrating their freedom in wealth.
An all-around beautiful movie, wonderfully acted and shot. Hideko’s precise diction, while inscrutable for me, was wonderful (Japanese, I believe). It’s a long film (2:20) with a good deal of prurient, but appropriate content, but well-worth it. Watched it in Korean and Japanese with impeccable English subtitles.
- Kavin Jay (2018) — 6/10
- Jay is a Malaysian comic of Indian descent. He makes a lot of jokes about his own weight, the differences between nationalities and then tells everyone to calm down—even though the crowd wasn’t particularly wild. He did his show in Singapore. It was interesting seeing a comedian from a completely different part of the world, but it was only OK.
- The Godfather II (1974) — 9/10
The sequel picks up where the first one left off, but also takes a parallel track that shows where Vito Corleone came from. We see his escape from his hometown of Corleone (as Vito Andolini) to Ellis Island, where he is renamed. Years later, he is played by Robert DeNiro and we see how annoyed he is by Fanucci’s (the Black Hand) handling of his fellow countrymen in the old neighborhood in NY.
In modern times (1958), Michael is enjoying great success in Nevada, but encounters resistance at “home” in New York. As well, he is discriminated against by those he bribes (as a greasy Italian). He teams up with his father’s most-trusted and oldest business partner in Miami, Hyman Roth. Michael and Hyman invest in Havana, Cuba—in 1958. On December 31st.
So Michael escapes from that potentially disastrous investment. In Vito Corleone’s thread, he kills Fannuci in order to stop paying him. It is the beginning of his empire. We next see him visiting Corleone in Italy, where he exacts revenge on Don Ciccio, who’d killed his father, mother and brother many years ago.
In the “present” day, Michael is setting up the chess pieces, much as he did at the end of the first movie. Tommy Hagen convinces a potential rat and star witness against Michael to commit suicide.
Roth, who turns out to be double-crossing Michael, is shot while in custody. Fredo meets his sad end on a lake, fishing. He was a sad sack, but too stupid to let live, despite his budding friendship with Michael’s only remaining son, Antonio. He’s sent his wife Kay away for having aborted his second son. He kept the other two kids. Kay aborted because she wanted nothing more to do with the corrupt Corleone empire. At the end, Michael sits by the lake at his lake house, alone.
Better than the first one, I think, by a little bit. Watching in English and half of it in Italian with English subtitles. Highly recommended.
- Valley Uprising (2014) — 7/10
This is a documentary about the climbing culture in Yosemite, from the earliest days in the 50s to the modern era. In the earliest days, climbers had the run of the park and spent weeks climbing the walls. Even at the time, they were considered hooligans who disturbed the other campers there. A couple of the best of them eventually started taking on the big walls (El Capitan, Half Dome).
The first ascent took a year and a half of climbing up and down and up and down and up and down. But it worked. There was a conflict between the styles—one was technical with a respect for the mountain whereas the other was just bent on getting up there no matter what, hammering in fixed ropes everywhere. They both contributed to the history and legend of the climbing culture.
Later, there were others who cut the time to 2 weeks, then 1 week, then 1 day, then 3 hours, then 2.5 hours. Then another generation later and they’re now free-climbing and setting even more speed records—all without ropes. The rules in Yosemite are even stricter now, with only a week of camping per person per year.
Alex Hannold is the undisputed master of the fearless free climbers and he just camps outside of the park and drives in every day. This is where the documentary leaves us—with individuals whose climbing skills and prowess are light-years beyond those of their forebears of just 50 years ago.
- Godfather III (1990) — 8/10
A relatively worthy finale to the trilogy, although it has a few very-rough patches. The final hour follows up a lot of setup, scheming and intrigue to take us into a denouement similar to the first two films: Michael’s well-laid plans come to fruition once again, thwarted only by a tragic victim (his dumb-ass daugher, played vapidly by Sophia Coppola).
Much of the film takes place in Italy, back in Sicily. MIchael’s son is out of the family business and is an opera singer, playing in Sicily for his professional debut on the Continent. Naturally, this draws attention and there is an attack on Michael Corleone’s life. Corleone, meanwhile, has been moving into the legitimate world more and more and has organized a takeover of Immobiliare, with the help of a Catholic church beholden to him at the very highest levels of power.
He is frustrated that “they keep pulling me back in” to the old business but also frustrated that the higher he goes in the supposedly legitimate world, the dirtier things get—even dirtier than anything he’s experienced in the world of gambling and girls in New York and Las Vegas. Corleone survives, but his daughter does not—and we leave the family on the steps of the opera house where the final generation has just debuted to success, only to end in tragedy.
- The Man from Nowhere (2010) — 8/10
Like I Saw the Devil, this is the story of a man with a violent past, a man who’s been trained in all arts of war, but who is in a job that has left that behind for the most part. In I Saw the Devil, the man was a regular police office who was taken off the leash when his wife was killed. In this case, our hero is Cha Tae-sik, a pawn-shop owner who runs his shop out of an apartment building.
Young Jeong So-mi is a young girl who takes a liking to him, visiting when she escapes her apartment and her mother, who she loves very much but who is addicted to heroin and often has “company” over when she needs to make ends meet. She takes the opportunity to steal heroin at her job (a strip club, naturally) and gets on the wrong side of the wrong people. They kidnap both her and Jeong, which is enough for Cha Tae-sik to drop his pious persona and to go on the warpath.
He cuts a swath through a local gang, eventually resigned to a suicide mission because he believes Jeong to be dead. He knows her mother is already dead. After he vanquishes the last man, he is left outside the van where he strongly suspects—knows—that Jeong lost her eyes (the enemy gang harvests organs) and probably her life. He puts the gun to his own head and…Jeong appears out a dark corner of the parking garage to ask him if he came to save her. He doesn’t respond, but his entire being expresses the notion that he’s pretty sure it is she who has saved him.
The film ends in a freeze-frame on his teary face after he’s hugged her for a good half a minute. He’d just bought Jeong school supplies before he goes to jail. That cements the idea that Korea’s cinema makes violent movies, but the violence has to have a purpose. The film is not about the violence; the film is about Cha Tae-sik, his lost wife and child (another callback to I Saw the Devil) and his newfound love for life through an orphaned girl.
- Kickboxer: Vengeance (2016) — 7/10
- There were a bunch of cheesy parts in this movie, which is to be expected. But I really liked Jean Claude Van Damme in this (obviously), playing an older instructor Master Durand who still moves like an oiled snake. He is Mr. Miyagi to Alain Moussi’s Kurt Sloane. The plot is pretty much the same as the original Bloodsport. In fact, there’s a tribute during the ending credits showing Van Damme’s Thai-club dancing in the original vs. Moussi’s quite excellent mimic of same outside of his jail cell in the movie. I also thought Dave Bautista did a great job as Tong Po, breathing more life and character into the nemesis than Chong Li did thirty years ago. There’s also Gina Carano completely underutilized as a crooked underground-fight operator and Sara Malakul Lane as the Thai police captain, equally capable of sounding 100% American and barking Thai commands to her underlings. There was also some excellent fight choreography, the best of it between Van Damme and Moussi during training.
- A Bittersweet Life (2005) — 8/10
This movie stars Byung-hun Lee (also starred in I Saw the Devil) as Sun-woo, a hotelier working for a mobster Mr. Kang. Kang leaves town for a week, leaving him in charge of keeping tabs on his girlfriend Hee-soo, who he suspects of cheating on him. Sun-woo is charged with killing them both if he discovers it to be true. It is, of course, true, but he lets them go instead, telling them they are to never see each other again.
In the meantime, another mobster is trying to embroil him in his business, this time at the behest of Sun-woo’s sleazy and devil-may-care co-worker Mun-suk, who’s ostensibly in charge of security at the hotel. Because Mun-suk isn’t around, Sun-woo must take out a whole cadre of gang members who try to set up in his club. This angers not only Mun-suk but also the mob boss to whom he’s been trying to ingratiate himself.
When Mr. Kang learns that Sun-woo let Hee-soo go, he joins Mun-suk and his boss President Baek in the hunt for him. Inexplicably, Sun-woo is released to Mun-suk’s men after having been captured by Mr. kan’s men. This is first indication that something isn’t quite right. One minute, we see a heavily trussed-up Sun-woo and his torturer preparing very ugly-looking knives and the next, we see him being dumped unceremoniously in a mud pit, at Mun-suk’s feet.
From there, he is buried alive, but escapes, only to be captured again—and always told that he can end his suffering if he just “apologizes”. He refuses and instead escapes with panache, leaving a trail of bodies behind him. His hand-to-hand fighting skills are quite strong. His gun skills are not. When he later acquires handguns, it is quite obvious that he is unused to using them. Although this movie felt like the same former-super-soldier-turned-mild-mannered-man-of-the-people, it turns out not to be.
Sun-woo meets up with Russian arms dealers, with a rather hilarious scene between a Korean translator and the rather-odd Russian. It becomes quickly obvious that Sun-woo hasn’t really killed people before. He is stabbed repeatedly by one of his nemeses, before he puts him down with a few ill-placed bullets. The multiple stab wounds don’t seem to bother him as much as you’d think they would (but we’ll find out why soon enough).
He misses a lot, but he also has a lot of ammunition. He fights his way through to Mr. Kang’s inner chamber in the hotel, where he confronts him. Mr. Kang is utterly convinced of his own safety, right up until Sun-woo shoots him in the heart. I’m convinced that Kang is Sun-woo’s father, even though the plot doesn’t say anything about it. It’s just a feeling and it makes sense in light of the ending. This triggers an epic gun battle, with Sun-woo inexpertly spraying bullets everywhere, but still managing to take out almost all of his enemies, most of whom are also fighting each other and doing some of his work for him.
He finishes off everyone, getting shot multiple times in the chest, but still, somehow, inexplicably,
alive. When a final killer (the brother of the arms dealer who he also killed when buying weapons) arrives to mop things up, he is still sitting there, still breathing, and calls Hee-soo one last time, only to hear her say “hello”. He smiles and fades out to visions of Hee-soo playing cello—before the killer finishes him off.
Fade to … Sun-woo in his office, coming back to himself out of a daydream. He sees Hee-soo in the distance, yearning for her. He smiles and shadow-boxes himself (self-consciously) looking behind him) before the film fades out. It turns out the film was just his daydream about how he could rescue Hee-soo from his father’s clutches and get his revenge on everyone who’s ever wronged him.
Honestly one of the most refreshing and best “it was all a dream” movies I’ve seen. Recommended.