Category Archives: 4th Korean Film Festival in Australia (KOFFIA) 2013

HKIFF Review: The Berlin File 베를린 諜血柏林 (2013) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA FIPRESCI
Review Date: 4th April 2013

Directed by: Ryu Seung-wan
Starring: Ha Jung-woo, Han Suk-kyu, Ryu Seung-beom, Jeon Ji-hyun

Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013

Also showing as part of 4th Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

Korean Box Office: USD$48,146,202

Support the site by buying DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

“THE BERLIN FILE” suffers from having too much of a plot only to fall into the cauldron of mess and struck within a simple formula by the end of the second half. Essentially it is a film that promises a lot, but delivers very little. Sometimes, film-makers need to realise that it is okay to keep things simple, but if you try to complicate things, at least make it worthwhile. “THE BERLIN FILE” starts off strongly and the complicated storyline even manages to hook onto the audience, but when everything that happened turns out for no reason whatsoever, the film flatters and became a cliché hostage situation. Like Hong Kong’s overrated “COLD WAR”, both contains excellent premises, and fail to last the distance and taking it all the way to the finale. This is a disappointing film, but certainly not terrible.

Ha Jung-woo (“LOVE FICTION”) is an adequate lead, but lacks the screen presence to carry a blockbuster spy espionage. He is constantly out shined by the always convincing Jeon Ji-hyun, which is a shame as the role requires more than just being intense and physically build. On the other hand, Ryu Seung-beom flairs the best as the key villain as his versatility can be seen right from the get go. Despite his character is largely a mystery, he is able to portray a more than efficient and dimension villain convincingly. Han Suk-kyu (“WHITE NIGHT”) does well in the final stages, but does not have the required screen time to immerse himself into the audience.

All in all, “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly a blockbuster of a film with crisp production value, top notch cast and an international Berlin setting. All these elements add to what could have been a great spy espionage with some crucial and relevant north and south Korean political undertones. Instead, what we get is something we have all seen before. By the time the supposedly tense finale hit upon us, we no longer cares for the characters. “THE BERLIN FILE” is clearly not a bad film, but it could easily be a hell lot better. (Neo 2013, Reviewed as part of 37th Hong Kong International Film Festival 2013)

I rated it 6/10

Stoker 慾謀 / 私房嚇 스토커 (2013) – USA

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 6th March 2013
In cinemas everywhere from 28th February 2013

Directed by: Park Chan-wook
Starring: Mia Wasikowska, Matthew Goode, Nicole Kidman

Also showing as part of Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

Support the site by buying DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

If there is one line to describe director Park Chan-wook’s Hollywood debut in “Stoker”, will be the film is constantly engaging, suitably intense, certainly different, always suspenseful and even stylishly directed, but it is not “Oldboy”. Then again, as a wise person once said, “what is.” It is safe to remark that Park is at home in this genre and there are few that can rival him in delivering a suspenseful thriller. Park uses the show not tell principle to almost perfection and his ability to disguise an already crowded genre cliche of mental health issues within thrillers is certainly admirable. The good news about “Stoker” is that it feels different from the normal and usual Hollywood production and that is refreshing to say the least. The audience can clearly sense from every little corners of the film, from the dim lighting, mostly setting within singular location and isolated characters that it is a Park Chan-wook’s production.

The film is constantly haunting and the atmosphere and the chilling vibe from the old mansion, reminds the audience of a haunted and horror film in the making. Park manages to maintain suspense incredibly well without giving too much away to keep the audience guessing and at the edge of their seats. “Stoker” is a psychological thriller and a bloody gore fest, but none of the brutal violence are distasteful as it is vital to the making of the story. Ultimately, Park is let down by a generic script that starts better than it ends.

Mia Wasikowska is simply amazing and captivating to watch. Her wandering eye combines well with her edgy and unconventional looks, which further adds suspense to an already mysterious atmosphere. She plays an interesting character who finds her way in life through brutal killings of animals and eventually humans. The nothing look on her face, when she brutally killed someone is startlingly cold and fascinating to witness. Matthew Goode gives a career defining performance as the mysterious uncle with a dark hidden past. Goode constantly smirks, sensually charming and ultimately making a layered character for the audience to follow. Goode is essentially the driving force of this film, as the audience are intrigued by what his motivations are. Nicole Kidman does well with her limited screen time, but her true intentions behind her fragile and strange behaviour is never truly realized.

All in all, “Stoker” on a technical level, the film is simply amazing to endure. From the framing of the park, the children playground, the freezer scene, the phone booth and the study room, every moment is tightly designed and intensely paced. One could not stop thinking, how much better “Stoker” can be, if only it can finish off what it started. It could have been a masterpiece, but yet the film ended up flawed. However, no matter what, with “Stoker” under his belt, I am eagerly anticipating for his next Hollywood affair. This is a fine debut for any first time Hollywood director. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 8/10

The Tower 火海108 타워 (2012) – South Korea

Review by: Andrew Chan FCCA AACTA
Review Date: 24th February 2013

Starring: Son Ye-jin, Kim Sang-kyung, Sol Kyung-gu, Kim In-kwon
Directed by: Kim Ji-hoon

Hong Kong Box Office Takings: HK$4,733,937

Also showing as part of 4th Korean Film Festival in Australia KOFFIA 2013 in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne in August to September 2013.

Support the site by buying DVD or Blu-ray from our HK Neo Distribution Ebay Store

After hitting rock bottom in the big and noisy blockbuster failure “Sector 7”, director Kim Ji-hoon defies all expectations to deliver one of the better disaster film in recent years. The difference between “The Tower” and “Sector 7” is that the audience cared about the characters and the situation on hand feel especially realistic. With all the offices being sky-rocketed to being higher and higher levels, the premises of being struck on level 108 with a fire looming and building collapsing seems frighteningly realistic. Such is the fear that director Kim Ji-hoon plays on and the result is a thoroughly engaging and tensely paced disaster thriller.

As with most blockbuster the actors are constantly overshadowed by the special effects in the sheer scale of the disaster. “The Tower” is no different in that department, except the audience cares for the characters and their underlying fate. Starring the star of internationally known films like “The Classic” and “Lovers Concerto”, Son Ye-jin possesses wonderfully screen presence and is perfect for this sort of role. Although her character is paper thin, like Hae Ji Won in “Sector 7”, both are instantly identifiable. Kim Sang-kyung flairs strongly as the unlikely hero who is pushed to his limits in order to save his daughter and love interest. Kim Sang-kyung overacts at times, but manages to convinces near the end. However the film belongs to the fire-fighter captain played by Sol Kyung-gu as it is his display of ultimate courage and self sacrifice that manages to carry the film broadly on his shoulders and taking the audience on an emotional roller-coaster along the way. Kim In-kwon is surprisingly effective in a small, but important role and provides the film with a humane and comic touch.

All in all, “The Tower” is a fantastic example of how to make a disaster film without losing the human factors and emotional effects. Far too many disaster epic nowadays forgotten the basic of engaging the audience, the need for them to identify and care for the characters, but luckily The Tower succeeds in all of the above. Director Kim Ji-hoon has shown that he can deliver the goods when given the right script and making the cheesy “Sector 7”, all but a mishap. Still, “The Tower” reminds us how important special visual effects are to film making and how together with strong characters, it can potentially have a powerful effect on the awaiting audience. This is a highly recommended film. (Neo 2013)

I rated it 9/10