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  • No More Hollywood: Big 4 Korean Films at Summer War
  • by HA Sung-tae /  Jul 23, 2015
  • Assassination, Veteran, Memories of the Sword, and The Beauty Inside at the Starting Line.
    Korean cinema in the first half of 2015 was certainly in a crisis. It was quite different from the usual “crisis panic” that emerges every time Korean film shares drop. It was much more tangible this time due to issue of downward-standardization of Korean commercial films.
    The only two films to have attracted more than 3 million viewers were Detective K: Secret of the Lost Island and Twenty. Gangnam Blues, The Chronicles of Evil and The Classified File narrowly met the break-even point with 2 million viewers.
    According to the Korean Film Council (KOFIC) report on ‘Korean cinema in May 2015’, the share of Korean films in the first 5 months of the year was 43%. It may seem like only a 3% decrease compared to last year, but if examined closely, it is apparent that this figure owes greatly to the success of Ode to My Father, referred to as a “10 million viewer film,” which was released in December 2014.
    Still, some maintain that the sense of crisis is over exaggerated, and argue that the 'Big Four' may sweep the box office in July and August.
    Starting with Assassination by CHOI Dong-hoon to be released on the July 22nd (distributed by Showbox), Veteran on the August 5th (distributed by CJ Entertainment), Memories of the Sword on the August 13th (distributed by Lotte Entertainment), and lastly, The Beauty Inside on August 20th (distributed by New Entertainment World), all four will be released during this period, to fight the assumption of so called the “crisis” of Korean cinema.
    Let us check out the central selling points of these Big 4 films that the Big 4 distributors are making every effort to promote.
    Assassination: Splendid cast, Even More Splendid Action

    Could there be any more attractive tag-line than "the next film by CHOI Dong-hoon of The Thieves“? At least in Korea, CHOI is one of the rare directors whose work has been successful both commercially and critically. His films are very engaging for viewers and, at the same time very well made in terms of dramatic completeness. This 18 billion won (USD 15.6 million) budget film by CHOI got its inspiration from a photo of the National Independence Army in the 1930s. 
    CHOI said in an interview that he tried to focus on “the people who are not different from us, but had to live differently to follow their beliefs in the historically tragic time.” Unlike Tazza: The High Rollers, which was a noir, or The Thieves, which was a caper movie, Assassination is distinctively different from his previous films. Here, CHOI attempts to deliver a more focused theme and serious drama, dealing with s revenge plot by an assassination team under Japanese Occupation.
    To be sure, the splendid cast and their splendid acting are also at the center of attention for this film. Gianna JUN, the muse for CHOI since The Thieves, shows her superb presence as the leading female gear of the film. LEE Jung-jae, HA Jung-woo, OH Dal-su, CHO Jin-woong, and CHOI Duk-mun certainly live up to their name value as well.
    The open studio in Shanghai which runs as large as 1,980,000㎡ Mitsukoshi Department Store and the old streets of Seoul built in Goyang city, are all great settings for splendid action to attract viewers. With all these strong points, Assassination is already expected to garner “at least 10 million viewers” even before release.
    Veteran: Cool, Thrilling and Fun!

    In 2011, RYOO Seung-wan practically made a grand slam of major awards at the 32nd Blue Dragon Awards with his film, The Unjust, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Script. RYOO is now back two years after his film,The Berlin File , was viewed by more than 7 million. Veteran has quite a few similarities with The Unjust. RYOO confesses that he himself sees “quite a bit of relation between the two films, as if they were different sides of the same coin.“
    According to the director, “while The Unjust tells a story of those defeated by power, Veteran shows their resistance against power.” To be sure, the vivid dichotomy of police vs “chaebol” is pretty much the same as in The Unjust. Whereas RYOO Seung-bum’s prosecutor is replaced by YOO Ah-in’s third generation chaebol, the police role is still played by HWANG Jung-min. And this duel between the two main characters is supported by YOO Hae-jin, OH Dal-su, JANG Yoon-joo, KIM Si-hoo and so on.
    It is also good news that the action scenes are further strengthened thanks to JUNG Doo-hong, the best known martial art and action director in Korea, who helped build the reputation of RYOO as an “action specialist”. If The Unjust can be classified as a social noir, Veteran is promoted as a crime-entertainment-action film. In RYOO’s words: “I wanted it to be cool, thrilling and entertaining like a refreshment.” It is expected to be his brightest and most upbeat entertainment movie, and to be a quite a success in theaters along with Assassination.
    Memories of the Sword: A Korean Style Martial Art Movie
    Memories of the Sword is certainly an eye catcher. First of all, it is a martial art action drama whose genre has rarely been attempted in Korean cinema. It would be already enough to attract movie goers to feature JEON Do-yeon, LEE Byung-hun and KIM Go-eun in martial arts action, which, until now, could only be found in foreign films like KING Hu’s A Touch of Zen, LEE Ang’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon or Hero by ZHANG Yimou. 
    “In the last years of Koryo Dynasty where the sword is power itself; a man who dreamt of being a King turned into a traitor; and 18 years later, two swords are pointed at him. Three swordsmen with different paths and their inevitable destiny.“ is the tag-line. Among the notable features of the film is wire action. The teaser film demonstrates more audience friendly emotional acting that differs from the Chinese style. '
    The performance of action scenes and the display of emotion by JEON Do-yeon who proved herself one more time in The Shameless and KIM Go-eun who was in the center of attention again in Coin Locker Girl are also noteworthy. The actress-geared Korean style martial art action genre is certainly interesting for many people. Could Memories of the Sword open a new landscape in the Korean style martial art action genre?
    The Beauty Inside: The star of Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity becomes a movie

    Lastly, The Beauty Inside is based on the Intel-Toshiba joint funded social film The Beauty Inside, which made a huge impact on the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity three years ago. This social film runs 40 minutes in total and consists of 6 episodes, featuring a man who transforms into different personas everyday. This unique theme was told in a sympathetic narrative and won the heart of numberless people in the CF business worldwide in 2012. Director BAIK (real name: BAIK Jong-yeol), who has an ongoing reputation of sensitive and sensual directing in the CF business, has turned it into a feature film with the same title.
    Interestingly, The Beauty Inside might as well be referred to as an “actor blockbuster.” To play the role Woo-jin who totally transforms into different appearances every morning, as many as 21 actors and actresses have been invited. From rookies to top stars, including a Japanese actress Ueno Juri, along with PARK Shin-hye, CHUN Woo-hee, LEE Beom-su, LEE Jin-wook, KIM Joo-hyuk, YOO Yeon-seok, and KO Asung, they all agreed to be in the movie as they were fascinated by the unique idea and script.
    BAIK explains that he thought hard whether to extend and change the original, but then he finally decided to keep the original as it is and just add some more episodes. Whereas the original focuses on the ways in which a man falls in love, BAIK added other stories to it. 
    The Beauty Inside is drawing attention thanks to the unique theme, sensual frames, a whole variety of actors and their unique performance. it is also the only work among the Big 4 that has a distinctive love story, adding some variety to the field of other big movies geared to action and blockbuster style.
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