The City Of Violence

The City Of Violence


Reviewed by: Paul Griffiths

After Quentin Tarantino graduated from Reservoir Dogs to his masterpiece Pulp Fiction, a cavalcade of films copying his style and content followed soon enough, with almost universally diminishing returns for all.

The City of Violence is a clear klaxon that it's now Kill Bill's turn. Given QT's passion for Asian films perhaps it's not so stark a rip off on show here, but even so it's director Ryoo Seung-hwan who has been touted as the Korean Tarantino, not the other way around.

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Weathered police detective Tae-soo (Jung Doo-hong) returns to his once rural home-town after a decade's absence to attend the funeral of a childhood friend, Wang-Jae (Ahn Kil-kang), and meet up with the rest of his old pals, such as Pil-ho (Lee Beom-Su) and Suk-hwan (Ryoo Seung-wan). After the flashbacks to their adolescent bonding escapades, Tae-soo learns that Wang-Jae was murdered by a gang of local hoods and starts to investigate. When he then gets into serious trouble with the yoofs, he's saved by Suk-hwan. The cool 'tec unites with the hot-head to probe further together, but the more they learn of Wang-Jae's dealings, the Mafia and the developing town's corruption, the more blood hits the streets.

Despite some crunching, frenetic fight scenes in the denouement, City Of Violence is unfortunately a lacklustre affair. The earlier action sequences fail to deliver on their promises and, quite frankly, when Tae-soo and Suk-hwan are besieged by countless, multi-uniformed teenage gangs, things turn ridiculous. It's also a tad uncomfortable watching grown men laying into groups of youngsters. With body-bopping the new happy-slapping, kids, there's a satirical edge to felt here, sadly dulled by the film-making.

Similarly, with the plot revolving around the arrival of rampant tourism and a casino development, there's great potential to explore the theme of Westernisation, especially of the youth and the townscape, which Seung-hwan never fully develops. Perhaps this is because he's more intent on scene and style-checking Western films himself. There's much dolly trolley folly to begin with, the camera forever gliding around a la Bruckheimer. The climax screams Kill Bill 1, from the black suits to the hordes of baddies, the silhouetted ass-kicking and coloured paper screen backgrounds. With all that already in place, little novelty is provided.

Esteemed martial arts director Doo-hong makes a serviceable lead and can, of course, high kick with the best of them. You can't doubt Seung-hwan's commitment - not only does he direct, produce and write, he also proves he's got the bones for full-on fight action. Sadly, his efforts don't tie together tightly enough to create a great piece of entertainment, mostly due to his script. There's a very basic, unsurprising story being simply told here. Plot's never been the strongest point in action flicks, but with this one dragging its heels at times, Seung-hwan can't help but skewer his own ambitions.

Reviewed on: 03 Jun 2007
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Casinos and corruption in Korean crime thriller.
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Director: Ryoo Seung-hwan

Writer: Ryoo Seung-hwan

Starring: Jung Doo-hong, Ryoo Seung-hwan, Lee Boem Soo, Joeng Soek-yong, An Kil-kang, Kim Seo-hyung

Year: 2007

Runtime: 93 minutes

BBFC: 18 - Age Restricted

Country: Korea


London Korean 2011

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If you like this, try:

Kill Bill: Volume 1