Saturday, August 16, 2008

Jjakpae aka The City of Violence (2006)

Have you ever been in one of those situations where you absolutely wanted to unconditionally love something, but couldn't bring yourself to do it? Well, last Wednesday was one of those times for me.

I picked up a copy of The City of Violence while I was home visiting family over the July 4th weekend. When I returned to Michigan, the DVD went on my shelf while I went on a four week bender of Cherry Coke and Grand Theft Auto IV.

Last Saturday I finally helped Jimmy the Peg achieve room temperature and decided it was time to sit down and watch the movies I should've watched a month ago. The City of Violence was the first DVD I picked up...

I should've watched Shadowless Sword first, but not because The City of Violence was an awful film. The City of Violence just proved that movie buffs like myself are probably more susceptible to internet hype than we like to think we are.

The City of Violence spins the fairly familiar yarn of the tragedy that comes with the realization that the familiar stomping grounds of your idyllic youth have been engulfed by a vortex of corruption.

Where is there left to go when you find that you can't go back home?

Top Seoul detective, Tae-su (Du-hong Jeong), returns to his hometown to attend his high school friend, Wang-jae's, (Kil-Kang Ahn) funeral. Flashbacks to the past reveal Tae-su's strong bonds with his high school friends along with promises of unconditional camaraderie.

These visions collide violently with the crushing reality of the present as Tae-su discovers gradually discovers that his chilhood friend, Pil-ho (Beom-su Lee), has been consumed by greed and has used less than admirable means to broker a land deal with the South Korean government in order to build a casino.

Means that include murder, extortion, blackmail, and the collection of the most amusing set of street gangs known to man.

Sound like the bastard child of The Warriors and Romeo Must Die? We'll you're probably right.

As a matter of fact, The City of Violence "pays homage" to so many films that it forgets to be its own film. If you pay close enough attention, you'll note parallels to everything from Kill Bill, to Walking Tall, to the fantastic 2001 Korean gangster epic, Friend.

The dramatic interludes harmonize about as well with the action scenes as the Georgian infantry harmonizes with Russian tanks. When people aren't getting maimed, the pacing of The City of Violence really does grind down.

But when this movie decides to live up to its title... Oh, boy...

The fights in this film are really well done. You may wrinkle your nose a bit if you're not fond of urban wuxia, but just about every brawl in this movie is balls to the wall. Du-hong Jeong and company get to showcase a lot of star quality Tae Kwon Do.

There is so much wonderful mayhem that nitpicky points of argumental logic tend to go by the wayside when bad guys are being cut to ribbons or getting kicked repeatedly in the jaw.

(ie. Why do so many people carry knives and swords in this movie and only one guy has a firearm? What is this? The 1300's?)

When there is that much satifying havoc going on in such a short period of time who really cares?

The final showdown between good and evil is as bloody as you might hope it would be, and it is surprisingly unforgiving.

As with Renaissance, my ultimate disappointment with The City of Violence stems from the notion that there is probably a really outstanding film somewhere in the script, but it never shows its face.

The City of Violence appears to be destined to be "that movie." You know, the one that is overpimped by the resident asiaphiles on the iMDB message boards as the greatest thing ever, yet doesn't quite live up to expectations.

1 comment:

Doug Tilley said...

My thoughts on the film echo yours completely. I certainly loved the *idea* of it, but the script just felt so pedestrian and melodramatic. The fight scenes are great, and the dvd is PACKED with extras, but it simply didn't end up being more than the sum of its parts.

Certainly a worthwhile film, but somehow it's just not as fun as it should have been.