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  City of Violence, The Trouble Town
Year: 2006
Director: Seung-wan Ryoo
Stars: Doo-hong Jung, Seung-wan Ryoo, Beom-su Lee, Seok-yong Jeong, Kil-kang Ahn, Deok-hyun Jo, Jae-mo Ahn, Byeong-ok Kim, Seo-hyeong Kim, Shi-hoo Kim, Su-hyeon Kim, Ju-shil Lee, Ju-wan On
Genre: Thriller, Martial ArtsBuy from Amazon
Rating:  5 (from 2 votes)
Review: Tae-soo (Doo-hong Jung) is a police detective in Seoul who moved away from his home town a long while ago, but something is about to bring him straight back. He receives a telephone call from the wife of one of his childhood friends informing him of the tragic news: his old mate Wang-jae (Kil-kang Ahn) has been senselessly murdered by a trio of youths who started making trouble in his bar one night. He went out to chase them and met his fate - but is it as clear cut as it seems? Tae-soo isn't so sure, and grows more and more convinced that Wang-jae's death was premeditated. Could it be to do with another of his old friends?

Why, yes, of course it could because as with a lot of Asian martial arts movies, the past informs the present, no matter how long ago it was in the characters' lives. Actually, the friends (and ex-friends, eventually) make quite a meal of how aged they are growing, as if they were still-living Methuselahs even though they all look about twentysomething, thirtysomething at the most. But there's a grumpy old man theme of the kids of today running wild, which is then undercut by showing that the men of Tae-soo's era are little better, if not worse.

The true baddie isn't difficult to spot from the early funeral wake scene, but this isn't really a film of earth-shattering surprises, chiefly it's about settling into a well-worn genre and being aware of exactly what you're going to get. As the title suggests, this is a violent work, co-scripted by Seung-wan Ryoo who also directs and stars, yet it doesn't quite carry off the promise of a whole city erupting into fights. In fact, in the opening stages things are remarkably calm, with the initial murder not even shown (more to sustain mystery about it than anything else, to be fair).

However, the intrigue that Tae-soo uncovers seems to lead back to another friend (it's as if all the players in this city knew each other as kids), Pil-ho (Beom-su Lee), now a businessman looking to build a casino on local land. Unfortunately, and this is where the crime element comes in, there are already people living on that land, and Pil-ho has no qualms about buying them out or more pertinently forcing them to go. Yes, he is a gangster, not the top dog but a man with ambition, and someone needs to stop him in his tracks before he does any more damage.

The direction veers between low key character stuff and flashy, show off setpieces, all interspersed with neat cuts and edits, but overall a consistency of tone is achieved. There are also bits that might make you laugh, as when Tae-soo is out in the streets at night and menaced by various gangs of youths which may well remind you of a certain Walter Hill film called The Warriors - especially when a group of face-painted baseball players hove into view. It's touches like this that make The City of Violence surprisingly good fun, ensuring that you know that they know the conventions that must be adhered to, including a great big fight for the grand finale and the requisite reflective final scene. It's nothing new, but it is well handled. Music by Jun-Seok Bang.

Aka: Jjakpae

[Premier Asia's two-disc Region 2 DVD has all the documentaries on the second disc.]
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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