By Daniel Chipperfield

Yellow Sea throws the viewer headlong into an action-packed insight into the Korean underworld.

We follow the story of taxi driver Ku-nam (played by Ha-Jung Woo) who, because of huge gambling debts and in desperation of finding his estranged wife, takes on a contract killing from local gangster Myun-Ga (Kim Yun-Seok).

Ku-nam lives inYanji City, a poor region that borders China,Russia and North Korea.

To help raise money, Ku-nam pays for his wife to get a visa to South Korea, only for her not to be seen or heard of again.

Thinking she has cheated him, Ku-nam takes the assassination contract and crosses the Yellow Sea to Seoul, South Korea.

Naturally things do not go to plan and Ku-nam must fight for his life to escape both the police and the South Korean underworld after getting caught in a conspiracy of lies and betrayals.

Yellow Sea received investment from Hollywood studio Fox International and it clearly benefits from the extra money with action-packed chase scenes and dramatic fights on a scale which would, I imagine, have been out of its reach otherwise.

This should not take away what director Na Hong-Jin has done with this dark, brooding film.

With little dialogue and less music, Na Hong-Jin makes sure the actors make their presence felt in the scenes to add to the tense atmosphere that is present throughout.

The leading characters perform their duties well in this regard and special praise must go to Kim Yun-Seok who plays the role of the casual yet very intense and immensely violent gangster Myun-Ga.

The action sequences are well choreographed and kept me on tenterhooks all the way through.

There were numerous times when I thought ‘oh crap they’ve got him now’ only to see the main character make his escape, which is a hard trick to get right I believe.

However at almost two and a half hours long, it is over-extended and the plot starts to lose its direction about three quarters of the way through.

The small amount of character development made me unsure as to the leading roles motives (other than taxi driver Gu-nam).

If I am honest I could not go into great detail into why certain people were doing what they were doing through most of the film.

It gave the impression that the increasingly intense and frequent fight scenes were becoming a bit senseless and added to the ‘fizzled out’ nature of the ending.

This broaches another issue I had with the film.

When it comes to films, I like a good dustup and a bit of claret as much as the next man.

However before this film had even come close to finishing I was starting to be put off.

It probably didn’t help that the majority of these fights involved axes and knives (and at one point a leg of an animal).

These, for some reason, come across as more unsettling than a typical movie shootout.
Despite this, Yellow Sun was impressive.

It was action packed and well produced but if violence is not your thing it may be worth looking somewhere else.

Apparently Fox International maybe putting up the money for a sequel and all I can say is it gets the go ahead by me.

 

EXTRAS: A full disc’s worth, including eight featurettes and four trailers

Released March 26.

 

About The Author

Simon Fitzjohn

Simon is a journalism tutor in London, who also just happens to be a movie fanatic, with a craving for the darker side of cinema. He has written two books, one on the horror films of director Bob Clark (2014) and the other on the history of the character Norman Bates (2015). His third book, on the work of British exploitation director Pete Walker, is due in 2017.