Sympathy for Mr Vengeance: A deaf guy must secure a kidney transplant for his dying sister, two tales of vengeance on a grand scale follow. While this is hardly the most uplifting story in the world the way it’s presented, and the way in which it develops, elevates this far beyond your average drama. It’s very well-shot with smart, striking visuals that intensify the story. The editing and lighting are very also slick – one scene with Song Kang-ho stands over an autopsy table and his skin goes from natural to red as a rib cage gets cracked open is is more unsettling than full-on gore. There’s some absolutely riveting, unforgettable scenes throughout, particularly towards the end when the story spirals into poetic tragedy. It’s also very smart, with some black humour and witty lines – one punchline about a crash is delivered about 40 minutes after the set up, unfortunately it would be lost on some. It’s raw, powerful, and there are a few scenes of no-holds-barred violence, but don’t let that put you off. The biggest selling point is the powerful story and how it’s told, piece by piece – very little is explained at the time but all key plot points are be added to later in the film. As part of the Vengeance trilogy (alongside Oldboy and Mrs Vengeance) it kicks off the set in style. Great film with great performances all round.
Note: In January 2010 news of a Warner Bros re-make was in the works, I just hope it folds like the Oldboy project.
Knowing: [unavoidable spoilers]: an astrophysicist receives a bit of paper that holds the key to every major disaster on earth. The number connection at the start feels like a high-brow Number 23, especially the drunken math-ster montage. The film’s surprisingly atmospheric and way more spooky than it looks. Ironically, and eerily, the movie also predicts a Gulf of Mexico oil rig disaster, weird. Disaster-wise we have an epic plane crash and destruction sequences on a supreme scale. Cage is rather good in this. Everything’s going really well then from out of nowhere: ALIENS AND FLAMING WOODLAND ANIMALS!!WTF?!?! Just when the film’s almost bounced back from that the final 15 minutes is another gigantic slap in the face. Knowing is a great premise that worked surprisingly well and was heading towards a 7-8 score. Unfortunately, it was absolutely mauled by the ending.
They Live: Everyone’s favourite Canadian-American pseudo-Scot “Rowdy” Roddy Piper uncovers a conspiracy bigger than his 1980s Hair-do. The idea’s great but everything else seems to have been lost during film-making. The script is forgettable, barring one “bubblegum” line, and the acting & action are underneath below-par. The look, feel and themes aren’t dissimilar to a 1950s anti-Soviet or propaganda film, with a barrage of social commentary and messages being forced upon the viewer. The soundtrack’s atmospheric, but only has one song! There’s an infamous five-minute fight scene that feels so ridiculously out of place, and it takes about 40 minutes for anything substantial to occur. After Carpenter’s string of original and amazing sci-fi / horror films this seems like a major let down and is – to all intents and purposes – a proper “B” movie. Corny socio-political ‘thriller’ with too many messages.