'Typhoon' Puts Action Above Character Development

      December 09, 2005 19:08

      The new movie "Typhoon" ready for release on Dec. 14 is already making waves as one of the audience draws of the year. Korea's most expensive movie ever boasts a stellar cast including Jang Dong-gun, Lee Jung-jae and Lee Mi-yeon. It is directed by Kwak Kyung-taek, the man behind the hit "Friend."

      A U.S. ship carrying a nuclear device is hijacked by a gang of pirates headed by Sin (Jang Dong-gun). Sin escaped from North Korea and wanted to defect to the South but was rejected for diplomatic reasons and thus lost his family. Now he has decided to take revenge on the country that tore him and his family apart. Elite officer Kang Se-jong (Lee Jung-jae) is assigned to prevent the calamity.

      But the action scenes are sometimes clumsily bridged, and while in itself the duel at sea that forms the movie's climax offers plenty of stunt action, the cracks show too clearly for it to have any great impact. Among Korean blockbusters, it lacks the deft depiction of characters seen in "Swiri" and the emotional subtlety of "Taegeukgi: The Brotherhood of War."

      "Typhoon" unfolds on a grand scale, racing from Russia via Thailand's jungles to the streets of Busan, which may go some way toward explaining the W15 billion (about US$15 million) budget. The movie starts off with a bang -- a gunfight at sea -- and barely lets up on the pyrotechnics throughout.

      To be sure, the cast do their best, with Jang Dong-gun as Sin radiating confidence from the close-up of his bloodshot eyes that opens the film. Lee Jung-jae is good as the suave Kang Se-jong as well, and Lee Mi-yeon acquits herself creditably in the dramatic role of Jang Dong-gun's older sister.

      But the main characters are too single-track to come fully to life, with Sin focused on revenge, Kang Se-jong on a soldier's honor and Sin's sister on sacrifice. The reunion of brother and sister after a long time apart may bring tears to the eyes of the viewer, and suffering of the North Korean refugees may break hearts. But the strong emotions depicted throughout the film are never fully developed.

      Furthermore, the plot creaks, not least at the moment when all characters suddenly decide to risk their lives and in the way the U.S. gets involved in the case. "Typhoon" is slick entertainment, but the film seems to have become too obsessed with scale at the expense of the personal touch that holds it all together.

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