That characters frequently speak English in Kwak Kyung-Taek’s Typhoon is emblematic of the film’s dedication to slavishly mimicking American action blockbusters; that such English dialogue is either laughably overblown or garbled to the point of requiring (unfortunately non-existent) subtitles is indicative of this big-budget import’s clumsy plagiarism. Sin (The Promise‘s Jang Dong-Gun) is a modern-day North Korean pirate who, as a child, witnessed his parents’ murder while trying to seek asylum in the South. Stealing top-secret U.S. military cargo to use as barter for leftover Chernobyl nuclear waste, Sin plans to annihilate both halves of Korea in an act of apocalyptic vengeance, a plot complicated by the efforts of South Korean lieutenant Jang Se-Jong (Lee Jung-Jae) and the reappearance of Sin’s long-lost, nearly-blind older sister (Lee Mi-Yeon). Beginning with a deadly oceanic heist and, shortly thereafter, a game of beach football played by shirtless hunks, Kwak’s globe-trotting adventure initially seems destined to be a humorous, Asian-tinged variation on Point Break-via-The Killer, offering up a veritable compendium of genre clichés—gun battles, hand-to-hand combat, excessive slow-motion, people whose outward appearances define their status as either good-guys (clean-cut suits) or bad-guys (tattoos, facial scars)—with unabashed relish. Yet shortly after one of Sin’s nefarious business partners almost unintelligibly proclaims “That’s goooood news,” the all-bustle, no-brains proceedings become something less than satisfactorily campy, sacrificing outlandish set pieces for both family reunion pabulum between Sin and his sibling as well as listless attempts at allegory about current relations between North and South Korea. A Poseidon-ish finale aboard a typhoon-wracked tanker in which hero and villain take turns stabbing each other with the same knife almost restores some of the film’s early, charming goofiness. But the director’s hokey melodrama and derivative action, when coupled with his inability to create any synergy between form and content, ultimately turns Typhoon into an insipid drag—albeit one that, if he ever defects to the U.S., would nonetheless likely assure Kwak a lucrative career as the Korean Michael Bay.
- Paramount Classics
- 103 min
- Kwak Kyung-Taek
- Kwak Kyung-Taek
- Jang Dong-Gun, Lee Jung-Jae, Lee Mi-Yeon, David McInnis, Chatthapong Pantanaunkul
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