Friday, February 8, 2008
TUBE (Korea; 2003)
D: Baek Woon-Hak
While I can't highly recommend it, TUBE is kind of fun, provided you don't think too much about the plot, which has a stereotypical loose-canon cop (Kim Seok-hoon) battling a terrorist (Pak Sang-min) onboard a hijacked subway train. The terrorist is a former government eraser that the government tried, but failed, to erase, and he's taken the train, and Seoul's mayor, hostage to uhh, well . . . to apparently have the plan be doomed from the start.
Equal parts SPEED and THE TAKING OF PELHAM 123, and lesser parts DIE HARD and MONEY TRAIN (the hero's boss does his best crazy Robert Blake impersonation), the film has few pretensions, which make it easy on the derriere, but overall it's a victim of ridiculous logic and a story that begs a few too many questions. Poor Bae Doo-na gets one of the stranger film roles in film history, as a pickpocket who apparently knows she must love the hero even before she knows the hero, and indulges all the necessary Korean histrionics along the way (as well as almost bearing more physical brutality than the hero!) while our glowering protagonist poses with a series of unlit cigarettes in his mouth (and which only one person will ever be allowed to light, care to guess who?).
Production wise, though, TUBE delivers the goods, with slick production values throughout, and some nicely handled chase and fight scenes. Turns out, if I read the docu-stuff on the Korean 2-disc set correctly, that the Korean subway trains don't even look as hi-tech as they do here, and the ones in the film were almost entirely CG apart from the sets for close-ups! Columbia Tri-Star's sleeve is highly reminiscent of the art for TRANSPORTER and, not entirely unexpectedly, substitutes a generic Asian face for that of star Kim Seok-hoon. Nice.