What We’re Watching – 7/20/11
Here’s a random thought: have you ever walked in to a movie and expected it to be bad, but watched it anyway? Maybe the genre is one you don’t enjoy, or it deals with a subject matter that you find unappealing—but, against all your better judgment, you sit down and go through the two hours, regardless? I have to confess, I’ve gone through this experience before, probably more often than I care to admit. I was just wondering about this phenomenon the other day—about what it is that causes us to go through the torture of watching a movie we have no interest in. A part of it has to deal with whom we watch it with; maybe a friend recommended it or a loved one has a burning desire to see it. Or maybe we like a certain person involved with the production. Whatever the case may be, there’s a ton of movies out there, and while stepping out of the box may give you some nice surprises, it’ll also give you a handful of clunkers as well.
With that said, here’s what I’ve been watching:
I Saw The Devil (2010)
If there’s one thing I’ve noticed when it comes to Korean cinema, it’s that they sure like their brutally violent revenge films. Whether it is the Vengeance Trilogy, which Oldboy (2003) is a part of, or Mother (2009), there is no shortage of Korean films containing high emotion and intense, graphic violence. I Saw The Devil, directed by Jee-woon Kim, possibly has taken the top spot in that category. The film stars Byung-hun Lee as Kim Soo-hyeon, a highly trained government agent whose wife is brutally murdered by the psychopathic serial killer Kyung-chul (Min-sik Choi, of Oldboy fame). Kim Soo-hyeon, hellbent on seeking revenge, goes on a massive rampage seeking out the person responsible for his wife’s death, and teaches him a lesson that borders on being psychotic as well. I like to think that I’m able to handle a fair amount of gore and violence, but with this film I was put to the ultimate test. This is not an easy film to watch; I found myself squirming from the very intense scenes and the very graphic nature of the plot. The camera does not pan away to leave things to the imagination; in fact, the camera zooms in to show all the bloody details. While I did enjoy the acting, and the camerawork was certainly first rate, the unflinching content of the movie was off-putting, pushing me away from wanting to see this film again any time soon.
Ip Man 2 (2010)
For those of you who enjoy martial art and kung fu films, Ip Man (2008) was one of the best of the last few years. Donnie Yen showed off an incredible amount of physical ability and dramatic talent as Ip Man, the well-known martial arts master most famously known for going on to become the mentor of the great Bruce Lee. What I enjoyed the most about this film—along with the great action set pieces and highly stylized choreography—was how director Wilson Yip intertwined the main story with the backdrop of World War II and the Japanese military presence within the Chinese mainland. What came out was a kung fu film that is more than just a kung fu film. When I learned that there was a sequel, I was really excited to continue this character’s story. Unfortunately, that high expectation may have dissipated Ip Man 2’s overall effect on me.
This time, we find Ip Man attempting to open a school in the middle of Hong Kong in the years after the war. Despite his having becoming a major presence in the martial arts community, Ip Man’s plans get derailed when an Australian boxer named Twister (Darren Shahlavi) comes to challenge any fighter: their kung fu against his western style of prize fighting. Does this premise sound a little silly to you? Well, that’s because…it is silly. Gone is the major dramatic anchor that the first film had, and what’s left is a movie that focuses entirely on the final fight, as if it were a Rocky movie. The action is still there, but there really isn’t much else. There is one great highlight though, and that’s seeing the legendary Sammo Hung playing a major, non-comedic role.