CITY OF VIOLENCE (aka: Jjakpae) is the 4th film by acclaimed action director Seung-Wan Ryoo (Arahan, Crying Fist). His films usually have that commercial appeal which is why they have enjoyed more success in most other countries in Asia than in South Korea itself. "City of Violence" is no exception, as with most martial arts films, it may have more "Style over substance" but no one can deny that it is very entertaining and quite intense that this film is worth a watch.
A Seoul cop named Taesu (Du-hong Jung, Fighter in the Wind, Arahan) is summoned back to his hometown to attend a funeral for an old high school buddy named Wang Jae. Once there, he runs into two more of his old group, Pilho(Beum-Su Lee) and Seok Hwan( Ryoo Seung-Wan). The four apparently forged their own lives; Taesu is a cop, Wang Jae gave up being a gang boss for his family and gave the reins to Pil-ho(who outgrew his goofy kid image), but Seok Hwan, still likes to start fisticuffs. Pil-ho assures Taesu that he owns the town and he will get to the bottom of Jae's murder. But Taesu, being the cop that he is, decides to do a little investigating along with Seok and they find Jae's killers have been brutally beaten to death, except for one. They find that Pil-ho was having an issue with Wang-Jae over a real state deal and it seemed that Pil-ho could have a hand in the murder.
Taesu and Seok must go through a gauntlet of Pil-ho's goons and a very tough QUARTET to bring Pil-ho to justice. The inevitable climactic showdown is a sight to behold.
The plot is unoriginal, and is quite simple. The screenplay gets a tad blurry with too many characters and with the flashbacks. It is also hampered with the fact that Pil-ho is revealed to be the culprit early on in the movie. It reminds me of the films; "Stand By Me" and the Korean Hit "Friend".
However, "City of Violence" succeeds in the action/fight scenes as well as its visual style that I forgave its shortcomings. The fight scenes (choreographed by Du-Hong, actor who played Taesu) are very well done and limits the use of wires/CGI. Bloody and hard-hitting, the fights are well-executed that the style has a touch of realism and doesn't lose its humanity. Camera work gives you an observational perspective, so you can see all the action. The atmosphere has that "noirish coolness" and coupled with very nifty scenes with the different "themed" gangs (looks like it was modeled after "The Warriors";ex. Cheerleaders, bikeriders, etc.) And the music at the climax is reminiscent of the Eastwood's "spaghetti westerns". All the formulas blend well to give us a very cool action movie.
I have the 2-disc region-3 edition from CJ entertainment. The presentation is exceptional which is why Korean dvds are expensive. I heard the Dragon Dynasty release will utilize the same transfer and may carry an English dubbed track. (I prefer to watch it in original Korean language)
PICTURE/AUDIO: 1.78 anamorphic widescreen. Near-flawless picture transfer. Vibrant colors, clean and sharp with strong solid blacks in the scenes where needed. 5.1 Dolby/DTS-ES in Korean, English subtitles are very good. If you're equipped, DTS track is the way to go because it is very powerful and crisp. You hear the impact of the punches more clearly.
"City of Violence" may not be wholly original, but it is proof that a film doesn't need to be one to deliver an intense and entertaining experience. It is fast-paced and definitely delivers in the action/fight scenes. It is exactly what action-buffs have clamored for in a long time!
RECOMMENDED! For action fans. (4 stars)