Monday, February 13, 2006

Welcome to Dongmakgol

Film It Suda
Director: Kwang-hyun Park
Length: 133 min.
Format: DVD
Date Viewed: 13 February

It seems that when it comes to mainstream Korean cinema (with notable exceptions), Jerry Bruckheimer has become the key influence. Style reminiscent of credit card commercials is heavily favored over substance, shaky-cam syndrome is widespread, violence is disturbing and gratuitous regardless of how light a film appears to be (see Marrying the Mafia), run-times are easily 30 minutes too long, and any potentially interesting ideas and avenues for profound political statements are quickly removed and replaced with empty Hallmark moments.

This is the case with first-timer Kwang-Hyun Park's cliche-fest, Welcome to Dongmakgol, a film that could have said many important things on North-South antagonism and the need for peace and reunification. Instead, all the screenplay decides to tell us over the course of 133 long minutes is that if Northerners and Southerners put down their guns, they could all be good friends. Thankfully, the movie doesn't otherwise choose sides between North and South on any issue, but that's about as strong as the movie gets.

Other major problems abound: the score sounds like it was lifted from a 20-year old direct-to-video feature and tries desperately to tell us what emotions to feel, the acting is generally horrible (even dinner theater may be above the American "actors"), and well, the less said about the giant warthog scene, the better.

Indeed, the director seems thoroughly incapable of presenting the material without a maximum of cheese at all times, as in the warthog scene and the final fireball, or without requiring us to not notice an unbelievably incorrect portrayal of army protocol (strange for a country with compulsory service) and also accept the obvious anachronisms and clunkily manufactured change in Moon Sang-sang's disposition towards the villagers so as to build "tension" and "drama."

Nothing about this shamelessly predictable film rings true in any way, and since it doesn't have anything to say regardless, this movie is a complete waste of time.


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