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4.5 out of 5 stars
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4.5 out of 5 stars
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on 20 December 2012
The new movie from the director of 'The Chaser' is as good and even more thrilling. I might point out at this point that Amazon does not advertise that this is the director's preferred and longer cut which has only been available thus far in Korea. The blu-ray is exemplary and I would suggest to anyone who loves World Cinema and Korean movies in particular to get this release while it is still available. The sub-titles have been newly translated and the main special feature is actually quite sufficient - a documentary comprising of smaller features which reveal the film-making process.

I won't go into too much detail about the film so as not to spoil it for anyone but suffice to say that if you enjoyed 'The Chaser', as well as other Korean movies such as 'Nowhere to Hide', 'Tell Me Something', 'Green Fish' and any of the great Korean thrillers between 1999 and 2005 will be well-pleased with this film. Of recent some Korean Thrillers have failed to reach the heights of the aforementioned with the exception of 'I Saw the Devil',and 'The Man from Nowhere' but 'The Yellow Sea' is very much a return to form.

The blu-ray release is from Bounty Films and distributed By Eureka. The cover and case are slightly different from the one shown on Amazon U.K. in that the case is light green and the cover has additional text.

If you buy just one film this year - this ought to be the one! Watch it back-to-back with 'A Bittersweet Life' and you will see why people like me talk about how some of the best films over the last twelve years have come from South Korea. Make it a Korean film night with 'Epitaph' and 'The Host' and you will feel like you are in film heaven!
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on 5 May 2012
The next film by The Chaser's director builds on many of the themes in that film. Here we have a twisted world in which probably no-one would choose to inhabit, where cops are useless or incompetant, bad guys are demonically strong, and protagonists dirtied by it all - in The Chaser for example we followed a cop turned pimp, but we also learn that he was hardly a model officer when he was on the force..

Yet at the same time in the Chaser there were many moments of humanity. In the Yellow Sea I struggled to find this humanity within most of the characters themselves. Partially difficulty in finding reasons to empathise with the characters comes from some of the detracting features in the film. Reviews abound on the internet, and you might seek out and find comments there such as 'women not portrayed in enough detail', 'overly long', 'lacks editing'.

But at the same time there are many reasons to watch this film. Let me give you a few:

- As social comment, albiet from the director's angle, this film differs from many of the more popular Korean films of recent years, examples here would be Oldboy, Bittersweet life, in particular The man from nowhere. Instead there is possibly a lack of character development, in the traditional sense, in favour of seeing the poverty and hardship of the lives in the first third of the film. This focus on Urban life/poverty/hardship demonstrates why the characters do as they do (to some extent).

- The cinematography here is very good, much as in The chaser there is attention to detail, artistry with the lens. Not as polished looking as The chaser I would say the investment of more money, possibly time, and locations for filming opened up the use of different camera styles. Some may find this jarring - esp near the last third of the film - but I think it does add to the direction of the scenes. There is a lot of action which I think is best seen not described.

- The acting as ever is good, despite my earlier point about a lack of character development in the traditional sense. The main character speaks little and we must therefore look to his experiences, facial expressions and suchlike. In terms of the other characters the villians work well, if again we learn little about them as people, but they seem clearly 'products' of their environments - note the 'clean' looking vs 'dirty' looking Boss theme!

- The plot. Though there seems to be some confusion in interpretations, the film warrants a re-watch to understand the goings on after about an hour and a bit in. There are a number of twists and plot changes, notably the shift between the first third and middle/last portions of the film.

Overall I would recommend the film, if it must be compared to exisiting Korean film then something like Sympathy for MR Vengence would be applicable, perhaps too Memories of murder. I would stress though that this is one of the bleaker films out there in Korean cinema, we are encouraged perhaps to learn (again in a limited way) about the plight of Koreans outside of the pop/glamour-world. Even more starkly less of the popular Black humour appears in this film than is ususally present in Korean thrillers; though it is there in small doses I think you might check your moral compass if you come away from this film smiling!

#Buyers may be interested to know this features 2 discs, with a long making of feature. The film is a 'directors cut' in which about 15/20 mins is removed in comparison to the Korean release. There is a comparison on the net, but I would add that the film is long enough as it is.
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on 15 May 2017
Happy with purchase
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on 7 April 2017
Superb film
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on 25 December 2011
I saw this at the Melbourne International Film Festival in 2011 and have been dying to finally get this on blu-ray. This is a movie that has very few guns but all the knives and meat cleavers you could ask for. And uses them all.

The violence is brutal, bloody and often up close. It is also excessive and never ending. Western films often glorify an intense moment of violence whilst The Yellow Sea follows it to its (un)natural conclusion. Remember the days when Seagal would walk into a room with a knife and kill everybody? This is the modern equivalent but done with Asian flair, outstanding production values, and a human-centred, relevant and modern tale. Like many Asian films, it's also slightly confusing if your mind switches to autopilot. So whilst you could watch this as a straight 'action' film and be happy with the violence, it's much better getting involved in the story too.

The perfect non-Western action film.
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"The Yellow sea" is a gritty drama from South Korea, written and directed by Na Hong-jin (who also wrote and directed the excellent "The Chaser"). It tells the story of an indebted Chinese Taxi driver, who accepts a job to murder someone in South Korea in return for the money to pay off his debt. It will also give him a chance to look for his wife, who went there to work, and from whom he has not heard for several months (he suspects she is having an affair). I thought it was very good indeed.
I did have to watch it twice to work out what was going on (at least I think I know what is going on!). It takes its time, but is beautifully filmed, with a great performance from Ha Jeong-Woo as "Gu-nam".
Like "The Chaser", this is a chase story of sorts. Gu-Nam is chasing a better life (and the truth), while he himself becomes the one chased as the plot develops.

------spoilers-----
Gu-nam (Ha Jeong-woo), works as a taxi driver in Yanji, China. He is "Joseonjok" (someone of Korean-Chinese decent, who are assimilated into Chinese society, but who often return to South Korea as immigrant workers). He borrowed money to buy his wife an illegal visa to allow her to work in South Korea. Unfortunately, he has not heard from her for months and the lone sharks want their money. Living in desperate squalor, his daughter living with his Mother, having been fired from his job and wanting to find out about his wife (whom he suspects of having an affair), he accepts a job from the local "mafia" boss, Myeon-ga (Kim Yoon-Seok) to kill a man in South Korea (a man who we get to know as "the professor"). If Gu-nam, kills the man, then his debt will be paid off.
Gu-nam accepts and then makes his way to Korea by way of a people smuggling gang, across the yellow sea.
When he arrives, things do not exactly go according to plan. While he watches his intended victim and plans his attack, others kill "the professor" as Gu-nam watches on and is implicated in the crime. It seems another mob boss, Kim Tae Won, wanted him dead as well. (I think for having an affair with his wife, though this only becomes clear at the very end). The motives for Myeon-ga hiring Gu-nam, also become clear(er) later.
There is no boat back to China, with Gu-nam having been double-crossed by Myeon-ga, who probably didn't fancy paying him the money. He is then caught between the gangs of Myeon-ga (who knows everyone who comes in and out of China) and Kim Tae Won (who wants Gu-nam dead, as he was a witness and pays Myeon-ga to find him). At least initially. The exact fate of his wife is never definitively explained, though there is a scene mid end credits, which could be taken a couple of ways.
There are some realistically bloody knife fights along the way and the whole film has a sombre fatalistic feel, as the anti-hero finds himself in a situation far beyond his control.
Beautifully photographed and acted, it is a compelling piece of human drama.
Right up there for me with some of my other Korean favourites; "New World", "The Chaser", "I Saw the Devil", "The Man from Nowhere", "A Bittersweet life", "No tears for the Dead".......

Recommended.
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on 31 March 2016
SUPER
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This is a truly stupendous film that takes a while to sink in. It is South Korean (with sub titles) but starts its story in Yanju City in the Yanbian Province of China. This is an area next to the borders of North Korea, Russia and China, the local Koreans are referred to as Joseonjoks and Gu Nam (Ha Jung-Woo) is one such man. He has borrowed 60,000 Yuan to send his wife to a better life in Korea, but that was six months ago and he has not heard from her, most suspect that she is a bit of a flibbertigibbet and as such has dumped him and their daughter for the high life of making a living from lying down. He meanwhile has to repay the debt to some local low life's. The money he makes as a taxi driver is not a lot, so he augments this by gambling on Mah-Jong.

However, he is as adept at gambling as a high wire actor with vertigo. Thus his debts start mounting, then he gets approached by local gangster and all round nasty bloke, Myun jung-Hak (Kim Yoon-seok), who offers him a wad of cash and a bank deposit account - without the Pin. He gets that on delivery of the thumb of a Korean man he wants to be `taken out', and I don't mean to a local restaurant.

Thus he is despatched to South Korea, but things do not go as planned and whilst trying to find his wife and carry out the job, he unintentionally end up being on the wrong side of the Chinese mafia, the police and the Korean mob. What happens next is a movie so full of twists as to make your eyes water. We have some spectacular car chases, gory violence, manic man hunts and what can only be described as good old fashioned medieval butchery.

Director and screenplay writer Hong Jin-Na has made a second great and original film, his first offering `The Chaser' was a debutante success and featured the above mentioned actors too. This has the same high end production values, and manages to keep the momentum up for most of the 157 minutes, though it could have benefitted from some editing in places. Some have criticised the many chase scenes too, but I found it edge of seat stuff and what appears to be more cars trashed than in the seminal `The Blues Brothers'.

This is one for action, thriller, violence, conspiracy and intrigue lovers as well as any one who like World cinema, all of the acting is top notch and even though some may find it bleak, I actually went `wow' at the end - very highly recommended.
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Korean thriller The Yellow Sea didn't make as much impact in the west as director Na Hong-jin's previous thriller The Chaser [DVD] did, but it's a much more satisfying film. Where that had the benefit of a premise with a certain amount of ingenuity, this offers a much more generic plot that we've seen a thousand times before - a down on his luck loser is persuaded to carry out a crime only to find himself pursued by cops and crooks alike - but gives it a degree of verisimilitude that helps sell many of the plot contrivances and unlikely escapes. Taxi driver Ha Jung-woo is struggling with a debt he can never repay after buying a fake visa to South Korea for his wife, who has left him and their child in the lurch in the impoverished bored area between Korea, China and Russia without a word. Offered the chance to pay it off by carrying out a contract killing in Korea, he reluctantly accepts, taking the opportunity to try to track her down while he's there. Naturally things go very wrong (though not necessarily in the way you might expect) and get particularly messy and he finds himself outrunning small armies of overenthusiastic cops or hatchet-wielding crooks who want to get rid of him...

Although there's a lot less action than the trailers might lead you to believe (much of the first hour of the 140-minute running time of the director's cut is effectively naturalistic buildup), it's impressively handled when it comes. Our tarnished hero's ability to escape against overwhelming odds stretches credibility a bit on paper, but the execution on screen is convincingly chaotic enough to sell them even if there seem to be an inordinate number of crashing vehicles at times. Similarly Kim Yun-seok's almost indestructible villain seems to have almost superhuman powers of endurance but somehow the film gets away with it by creating a believable world around its characters. It doesn't add up to much or offer much that's new, but it's still an effective if bloody bit of Korean noir.

For the most part Eureka's Region B Blu-ray release is an impressive 2.35:1 transfer, though there are a few bits of noticeable edge enhancement and the limitations of the digital photography are very apparent in parts of the big car chase. Extras are a decent 77-minute eight-part collection of behind the scenes featurettes and three trailers.
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on 29 October 2014
This is a great gritty drama. Other reviewers have given their own synopsis, but here's mine. Set in an impoverished grim part of south east China during winter, an ethnic Korean-Chinese has not heard from his wife for 6 months whom had gone to South Korea to find work, leaving him with her travel costs to pay. An underworld figure offers to wipe the debt in return for him going to Seoul on a mission to kill a man - and will also have time to look for his wife. Many twists and turns occur and during the third quarter of the film it all became a bit confusing. But this did not affect the end of the film. This is a grim and depressing film where the protagonists come from a dog eat dog world well away from the glitz and glamour of some parts of modern China. Keep watching when the credits roll as there is a final scene here that will change the whole film and make it seem all the more depressing and futile.

Don't watch if you are in a depressed mood - or do if you want to wallow. This is a great thriller and I recommend it.
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