Guns And Talks is somewhat of an oddity. In tone it's variable, even episodic, but it has moments of striking technical virtuoisity, dense, even cryptic, plotting, and broad universal humour. It is loosely the tale of four young men - all assassins and weirdly childish - and their coming of age.

For a long time the films that made it out of Korea were the most immediately accessible, horror titles for the most part, such as The Grudge and R-Point. Now that Korean cinema has established itself on the international market, we're starting to see more titles winging their way off the peninsula. Of course, there's also any number of films that didn't make it first time out, and this is one of them, originally received in 2001. Writer/Director Jin Jang is clearly talented, and this is an excellent demonstration of his abilities.

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The four hitmen (Shin,Hyeon-jun, Shin Ha-kyun, Won Bin and Jeong Jae-yeong) live together, work together and gather round their television to sit and gaze adoringly at their favourite news presenter together. They've a kindly mentor and an odd client list, everything you need to have odd adventures as a hired gun.

Those hits form the backbone of the film, and some of them are stunning. A request to injure the left hand of a victim is interesting, if only for character reasons, and a hit on four businessmen is a triumph; it's got a car chase, a huge explosion, and a moment of bullet-time that recalls the work of Timur Bekmambetov more than that of the Wachowskis, if only because it's well-used and entertaining. The real highlight is when the gunsels are asked to kill an actor during a production of Hamlet. It's a genuine production, in the Seoul Opera House, and in terms of metatextual sophistication it goes far beyond a play within a play within a play.

It's exciting, funny, moving too. With foreign films that are good and those that are just successful there's always speculation about a remake. Given its format, Guns And Talks would possibly adapt better to television; the Sopranos, the Riches, even The Wire have made criminals as protagonists more acceptable, and if they can find four actors as winsome and charming as those in Guns And Talks, they'll be on to a winner.

Reviewed on: 01 Nov 2008
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Guns And Talks packshot
A band of killers-for-hire attempt the perfect crime, but a detective is hot on their trail.
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Director: Jang Jin

Writer: Jang Jin

Starring: Shin Hyeon-jun, Shin Ha-kyun, Won Bin, Jeong Jae-yeong, Jeong Jin-yeong, Oh Seung-hyeon, Kong Hyo-jin, Yun Ju-sang

Year: 2001

Runtime: 120 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: South Korea


London Korean 2010

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