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Shiri [2003] [DVD]
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 12 March 2014
This 1999 South Korean action film is a quite watchable thing, although ultimately not as good as I hoped for. Below, more of my impressions, with some limited SPOILERS.

In October 1992, an elite group of North Korean soldiers are put through a brutal training regime. Under the auspices of their commander, Park Mu-young (Choi Min-sik), they will be sent into South Korea as sleeper agents, to be reactivated at some later date. The most promising of the group is "Lee Bang-hee" (this is the code name she uses), an extremely gifted female sniper - once infiltrated to south she assassinates several key South Korean figures over the next six years. And then she suddenly stops all activity and vanishes. This all figures in the introduction.

The film begins in fact with two South Korean counter-intelligence officers, Yu Jong-won (Han Suk-kyu) and Lee Jang-gil (Song Kang-ho), making a point about their fruitless investigation and their failure to find any concrete, hard data about "Lee Bang-hee" - including how she looks and what is her real name... Yu and Lee, as well as their superiors, strongly suspect that this interruption in "Lee Bang-hee" activity simply indicates that North Koreans are up to something REALLY big... I will say no more about the story.

This film is actually inspired by real events, namely the little known in the West but absolutely merciless secret war North Korean nightmarish regime waged and still wages today against its Southern democratic neighbour. Some of the most notorious incidents are worth mentioning:

- on 21 January 1968 North Korean commando infiltrators attacked the Blue House, the residence of South Korean presidents trying to assassinate the president Park Chung-hee; the 31 members of the commando trained for this mission during two years! They didn't succeed and 28 were killed in fighting - one more committed suicide, one was captured alive and one managed most probably to escape back to North Korea. In successive firefights South Korean army and police lost 26 men killed - US Army lost further 4.

- on 9 October 1983 three North Korean secret agents planted a bomb at a mausoleum in Rangun (Burma) where South Korean president Chun Doo-hwan was expected to depose flowers during an official visit; because he was delayed in the traffic, he was not hurt - but the explosion killed 21 other people including South Korea deputy Prime Minister Suh Suk Jun, minister of foreign affairs Lee Beom-seok, minister for commerce and industry Kim Dong Whie, minister for power resources Suh Sang-chul, presidential chief of staff Ham Byeong-chun, as well as South Korean ambassador to Burma and three vice-ministers

- on 29 November 1987 Korean Air Boeing 707 (Flight 858 from Baghdad to Seoul) was destroyed by the explosion of a bomb smuggled on board by two North Korean agents, including a highly trained female operative, Kim Hyon Hui; all 115 people on board died.

- 18 September-5 November 1996. After a group of 25 heavily armed North Korean commando infiltrators were landed in the south by a submarine a manhunt was launched by South Korean army, which lasted 49 days. 13 infiltrators were killed in fighting, 11 died in a mass murder-suicide once cornered and one was taken alive. South Korean army lost 8 soldiers in fighting (and 4 more in an accident). During the manhunt the infiltrators also murdered four southern civilians.

- possibly as retaliation for the interception of this group of infiltrators, on 1 October 1996 Choe Deok-geun, a South Korean consular agent to Vladivostok (Russia) was ambushed and murdered by North Korean agents

- 17 December 1998 - a North Korean midget submarine was intercepted by South Korean navy when landing a group of commando infiltrators in the south; in the ensuing battle the ship was sunk and all infiltrators killed

Coming back to the film, well, it is not bad. The plot is honest, characters are rather well developed, there are some interesting twists and surprises, most action scenes are OK and especially there is NO idiotic kung fu (or in this case taekwondo) which so horribly hurts many Asiatic films.

The training of North Korean commandos and their quite impressive performance in fight are quite impressive – as is also the presentation of how ruthless and sadistically brutal is North Korean war machine (the training includes the use of political prisoners as living targets and it is very probably a TRUE STORY!).

On another hand this film is quite predictable – we guess quickly who is the main opponent of two heroes and it is quite possible to guess then what will ultimately happen to the whole film.

I also absolutely hated the idea that the whole great evil plot is supposedly not the work of North Korean government but of some "extremists" inside North Korean armed forces, who try to prevent northern regime to make peace with the south(!). Considering the murderous record of North Korean government both against its southern neighbours and its own population this kind of precautions always infuriated me!

This is definitely not a masterpiece but a watchable action film, refreshingly different from Hollywoodian action movies, which even if sometimes honest, are also annoyingly always the same. This exotic treat is therefore worth seeing – but in principle once.
3 people found this helpful
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on 22 July 2017
As a fan of Korean cinema (especially Kim Ki-duk's films know how to get my attention) I bought the 2003 ... well ... let's say almost 'action film' "Shiri" - sad but true:
It is not as beautiful as the cover, not as brilliant as the other films of the "tartan Asia Extreme" collection (well, yes and no, "Princess Blade" is not any better) that I know and not as thoughtful as a movie of this category should be as well.
Of course I adore the wonderful neon set pieces that are quite impressive and I also prefere the fact that it takes place in the past and brings us back into the world of the 20th century, but all these little advantages do not let me forget about the problem that the main drama of the film is, let's face it, very thin and almost tired...
The film is boring and way too hectic at the same time, that's part of the irony and even if the visual art is not bad at all, it is still an average film not to remember for a long time...
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on 19 July 2015
Not a film of overwhelming subtlety, the shooting starts right at the beginning and caries on pretty much continuously to the end. Styled after the Holywood and Hong Kong blockbusters of the day Shiri was extremely popular at the time and does raise what remains a somewhat taboo subject of the possible reunification of the two Koreas.
One criticism of the film is the apparent disparity between the special forces elements of this divided country, North Korean troops are all dead eye dicks that require a hail of bullets to take down, South Koreans on the other hand apparently couldn't hit a barn door on a good day, spraying tons of lead in the direction of their opponents, rarely if ever hitting anything. They also appear comparatively fragile and drop dead if a bullet gets within a hundred yards
I know there is a long tradition of guys as cannon fodder in all movie industries, but Shiri just looks a bit unbalanced.
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on 5 November 2012
05 November 2012
When special agent Ryu of South Korea's secret service fails to prevent the death of an arms smuggler turned infotmant, he instinctively suspects the involvemment of Hee, an enigmatic sniper from a North Korean terrorist group.

A skilled master of disguise, Hee previously assassinated many goverment offcials but since managed to disappar, escaping the unrelenting pursuit of South Korean agents. Now it appears that has returned.....
Featuring some truly breath-taking set pieces and ulta-kinetic shoot-out, this adrenalin-charged ride into the dangerous world of renegade snipers and secret intelligence officers was the highest grossing was the highest grossing box office success of all time in Korean history.
If you like any thing like this "Nikita and Die Hard" [It a good film to see]
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on 22 March 2014
This film is full of action although it is actually a romantic love story. Good direction, sub-titles are good but the film runs so fast that it sometimes is difficult to follow. Music score is excellent.
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on 22 July 2011
i bought this film as i had seen a clip on another dvd, i wasnt disappointed it has plenty of action & shoot outs, if you like cini asia this film is for u, i was goin to tell you abit about this film but i dont want give anything away,buy it & you can add it to your collection.
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on 21 April 2018
An underrated gem of the action genre. Great actors including the mighty Choi Min-sik of Old Boy fame.
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on 22 November 2013
Asian action classic. South Korea - North Korea spy war with sentimental and also sports political involvement. At times very emotional soft, at the other hard battle.
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on 12 May 2016
Agreat dvd well worth watching.
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on 18 February 2016
Excellent
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