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  Peninsula Fast & Furious & Fierce
Year: 2020
Director: Yeon Sang-ho
Stars: Gang Dong-Won, Lee Jung-hyun, Lee Re, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Ye-Won, Geoffrey Giuliano, Jang So-yeon, Bella Rahim, Moon Woo-jin
Genre: Horror, Action, AdventureBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jung Seok (Gang Dong-Won) used to be a soldier, but all that changed when he was taking his sister and her family out of South Korea, as the nation had to be evacuated because of a zombie outbreak that spread its deadly virus through biting, like rabies. The crisis was being contained, but only thanks to the most brutal treatment by the authorities who would make no bones about gunning down anyone who was infected, and Jung was well aware of that, but believed once he had ignored the pleas of other survivors and got his relatives onto a rescue ship they would all be safe. Alas, as he sat below decks and watched over them, a nearby refugee began to contort his body and it became obvious he was turning into a bloodthirsty zombie...

That was all four years ago by the movie's timeline, in a sequel that wasn't to international hit Train to Busan, the South Korean zombie epic that was a significant part of its country’s new domination of the East Asian genre market in the twenty-first century, taking over the mantle from Hong Kong and Japan. Even those who felt jaded by the whole undead movie craze, be they moving fast or slow, were impressed with it, with its genuinely tense setpieces, relentless activity and unexpected tugging of the heartstrings come the final act. Director and co-writer Yeon Sang-ho apparently saw himself as a new horror specialist and began churning out efforts on the same themes, including an anime prequel titled Seoul Station, and this follow-up that caught the story later on.

However, it featured none of the same characters, and given the quick-paced zombies were the sole link to the previous film, you could not really call it a sequel as such, more part of one of those "cinematic universes" that many franchises were keen to cultivate. As it stood, once released many were disappointed it couldn't capture lightning in a bottle for a second time, and some questioned whether it was really a horror flick, and not an action movie instead, especially when its grand finale was a vehicular pursuit very much in the tradition of George Miller's Mad Max sequels (which in a way were a cinematic universe themselves). However, Peninsula hewed closer to another movie, not Escape from New York which others identified as a strong influence, but Neil Marshall's tribute to all these things, Doomsday from 2008.

That film had shamelessly worn its influences on its sleeve like medals on its chest, to mix metaphors, which theoretically, since it was now old enough to be seen around the world, meant the tributes were having their own tributes, or that's what it looked like. Doomsday had been all about the spectacle, as Peninsula championed as well, but Train to Busan had succeeded so well because of its human element: we were watching ordinary people trying their best to survive in horrendous circumstances. Here, on the other hand, we were watching over the top heroes and villains in a wild battle to the death over a truck full of money, and that was not really the same, since that intimacy we felt for the earlier characters was replaced with conventional action movie exertions that nobody would really relate to, more sit back and watch as escapist nonsense. Despite a late dive into outright schmaltz, the emotional connection wasn't there anymore... but as an energetic run through of action and zombie shenanigans, some would say cliches, it was slick and diverting. Music by Mowg.

[Train to Busan presents: Peninsula will be available to watch on digital platforms on 23rd November 2020.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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