Friday, November 30, 2007

SEOUL (2000; Korea)

Choi Min Soo, Tomoyo Nagase

SEOUL (2000)

D: Masahiko Nagasawa

Japanese cop Tomoyo Nagase, on vacation in Seoul is held over for questioning after he foils an armored car robbery. Meanwhile, Dawn of Nation, a terrorist organization, plots to disrupt the upcoming Asian summit, kidnapping Japan's Foreign Minister to back up their demands. Tomoyo inserts himself into the investigation of hard-nosed Korean cop Choi Min-soo, an unwavering protocol-follower who teaches him the finer points of Korean etiquette along the way, most often at the receiving end of a punch in the face. Choi himself is saddled with obstructive KCIA guys who regularly overrule his authority. Meanwhile, Tomoyo, against the wishes of his handlers, begins to suspect a link between the terrorists, the robbers and the monolithic Korea Japan Union Bank that could spell a deadly threat to Pan-Asian relationships. Slick, solid thriller with crackling action sequences, and a worthy cousin to the seminal 1999 actioner SHIRI, though one rooted less in Tom Clancy-ish techno-fantasy than that film. Writer Yasuo Hasegawa lightly acknowledges Japan's shameful presence in Korea's history, largely through the character of a wizened Korean noodle-stand proprietor whose Japanese fluency surprises Tomoyo, but then in the film's climactic turning point, in which Tomoyo rescues hostages on a city bus in defiance of Choi's orders (and is ultimately joined by Choi in his efforts), this act of Japanese redemption on behalf of Korean innocents seems tantamount to the Japanese (historical revisionists with the best of them) telling the stuffy, face-saving South Koreans to remove the stick from up their collective ass and get over themselves. A minor quibble, considering the film's general intelligence and quality in the face of so many cop thriller genre clich├ęs. Trimming a few of the film's multiple denouements might have helped, though.

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