The Yellow Sea – Don’t Miss this Bloody, Awesome Korean Crime Thriller

(** Attn U.S. Readers: The Yellow Sea is currently playing at select theaters in NYC, NJ, Skokie (IL), Cupertino (CA) and Los Angeles)

Yellow Sea Cast & Crew
Director – Na Hong-jin
Story/Screenplay – Na Hong-jin
Actors – Jung-woo Ha, Yun-seok Kim

Given our insatiable lust for Korean crime films, it was preordained that we would watch The Yellow Sea when it hit theaters in the U.S.

Much to our chagrin, the movie took a long time coming to Amreeka but finally it debuted last Friday in select theaters across the U.S. Braving the thick Mid-Atlantic fog, we hotfooted over to see the movie this morning.

When The Yellow Sea was screened at the Un Certain Regard section of the Cannes Film Festival in May it won loud applause from many admirers.

By now, movie buffs who can move a mouse and with an abiding interest in quality films (the un-Bollywood stuff) are aware that Yellow Sea moves at a ferociously bloody pace with a furious velocity that lunges at you and holds you in its thrall, keeping you at the edge of your seat for the duration of the film.

For Korean film aficionados like yours truly, the cast and crew of Yellow Sea are familiar names.

Director Na Hong-jin, whose explosive debut in 2008 with Chaser established his reputation with moviegoers, gets together once again with the two lead actors from his first film, Jung-woo Ha and Yun-seok Kim.

Na Hong-jin is also credited for Yellow Sea’s story and screenplay.

Yellow Sea starts off in the Yanbian region, an area at the intersection of China, Russia and North Korea, where 800,000 Korean-Chinese live, many of them making a living off illegal activities.

Cab driver Gu-nam (Ha Jung-woo) is overwhelmed by the debt incurred in his wife’s passage to South Korea to find employment there. Gu-nam’s crushing debt of 60,000 yuan gets worse with his gambling losses from Mahjong.

As his debt situation becomes alarming and the thugs keep pressing him, Gu-nam’s lenders push him to complete a dangerous assignment for a local criminal Myun (Yun-seok Kim) to settle the debt – Kill a person in South Korea and bring back his thumb as evidence of the job completed.

Initially reluctant, Gu-nam eventually agrees as he sees no other solution to his financial woes.

High Octane Stuff

Yellow Sea gets into top gear once Gu-nam reaches South Korea.

Besides being tasked to commit the murder, Gu-nam is also desperate to trace his wife whose picture we see repeatedly in a cracked photo-frame.

Back home in Yanji, people had repeatedly taunted Gu-nam that his wife had become a whore in Seoul, a vile, vicious taunt that preys on him and demonizes his dreams.

In Seoul, the murder of the intended person happens but not as planned.

Before long, Gu-nam is running for his life, from the police, from a Korean criminal gang and ultimately from Myun himself who lands in South Korea.

We see the ordinary, short-tempered cab driver transformed into a killer as he fights the gangs, dodges police bullets and runs in a furious battle for survival.

The sharp knife he picks up on the way is his only ally in the breathless, high-pitched violence that engulfs the movie.

The camera work and editing are top class highlighting and keeping the relentless tension and thrill at the forefront.

Intense, Bloody Violence

The Yellow Sea is not for the squeamish given the high dose of violence involving axes, knives, fists and even bones (no kidding) in one surreal moment.

Director Na Hong-jin’s movies Chaser and Yellow Sea see the human soul in very dark shades where evil is distinguished merely in degrees.

We promise action film lovers that they’ll love the fast chases, the deadly fights and the overall frenetic, relentless edge-of-the-seat-pace that makes The Yellow Sea an extremely engaging movie.

As the movie progresses, you find yourself warming up to Gu-nam and rooting for his success.

Both Jung-woo Ha and Yun-seok Kim throw in compelling performances that leave you gasping for breath.

If Jung-woo Ha has you in a spell over his character of the hunted, tormented man on the run then Yun-seok Kim as the vicious, brutal criminal captures your imagination with the perversity of his violence when he has an ax nearby.

The movie moves at such a torrid pace that on an occasion or two we were not sure who’s attacking whom. But we’re not complaining given the overall pleasure we derived from the film. strongly recommends The Yellow Sea to all lovers of fine action films.

By God, you will not be disappointed with this superb Korean action film (yes, it has English subtitles).

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4 Responses to "The Yellow Sea – Don’t Miss this Bloody, Awesome Korean Crime Thriller"

  1. Naveen   December 6, 2011 at 1:33 am

    If you had not reviewed this movie then I would have never heard about it.

    Now, I am compelled to watch it. 🙂 Responds:

    If you still have Netflix Instant, you can watch his Chaser on the TV via Roku or any other compatible box.

  2. MadAtBollywood   December 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    I hope Mahesh Bhatt does not watch this Korean flick.

    I bet you, as soon as he’ll watch it, he’ll call his “creative team” (remember he assembled his creative team a few months ago to come up with a plot for his Murder 3 movie?) and he’ll copy the plot for Murder 3.

    Disgusting bollywood bozos!! Responds:

    1. Obviously, you know that Murder 2 is supposedly a ripoff of Yellow Sea director Na Hong-jin’s Chaser.


    2. BTW, Yellow Sea is playing in your area.

    • MadAtBollywood   December 6, 2011 at 2:33 pm

      Yup, I knew murder 2 was ripped off from Chaser. So Mahesh will conveniently steal the plot of Yellow Sea for his Murder 3. Despicable bastard!!!

  3. munish   December 10, 2011 at 1:10 am

    One major factor responsible for the awesome visual appeal of korean films is their lighting.

    In a crime film, low lit sets seem to add a mystique to the proceedings. Perhaps Vishal bhardwaj made Kaminey after watching some korean film. Responds:

    True. We have seen reference to Lighting Director in the credits for some Korean films.

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