COURTESY OF PARAMOUNT CLASSICS / CJ ENTERTAINMENT
Elite Navy SEAL Commander Kang Se-jong (Lee Jung-jae, left) is assigned to hunt down pirate Sin (Jang Dong-gun, right).
Korean film is mostly style without emotion
Typhoon" has all the elements of an action film -- lots of blood and violence, chase scenes, explosions, exotic locales, mystery, a climactic knife duel, the rugged bad boy (complete with scars on his face and tattoos on his body) and the clean-cut handsome good guy.
Opens in theaters Friday
Oh, and not one but TWO typhoons.
Yet the movie lacks the energy to jump from mediocre action film to good action film.
Billed as the most expensive film to be made in Korea -- according to www.koreanfilm.org, the production budget for "Typhoon" was $15 million, the highest in Korean history -- the movie stars Jang Dong-gun ("Friend," "Taegukgi" and "The Promise"), Lee Jung-jae ("Il Mare") and Lee Mi-yeon ("Love Bakery"), and is directed by Kwak Kyung Taek ("Friend").
It begins with a happy North Korean family awaiting transportation to South Korea. A picture is taken, focusing on a young, innocent-looking boy and his older sister.
Twenty years later, the boy has become a cold-blooded pirate named Sin (Jang). He and his crew hijack an American ship to steal its secret cargo of satellite guidance receiver systems for nuclear missiles. Within the first 15 minutes, knives slice through bodies, blood covers the walls and dead bodies are stacked on top of each other.
Elite Navy SEAL Commander Kang Se-jong (Lee) is called upon to capture the man responsible for the hijacking. He enters the movie via a football game where he and some of his other teammates play shirtless on the beach, reminiscent of the volleyball scene in "Top Gun."
The chase jumps from South Korea to Malaysia to China to Russia. While piecing together what happened, Kang discovers the tragic events that turned Sin into a killer and Sin's plot to destroy the Korean peninsula. He finds Sin's only living relative, Choi Myeong-ju (Lee), the sister in the photo, as a lure.
Kang feels a connection to Sin, but the movie doesn't develop the bond well enough for the audience to feel empathy for Kang when he has to take down Sin.
Considering the film's limited budget compared to American blockbusters, the typhoons, when they finally strike, are impressive, as is a subsequent huge wave (think "The Perfect Storm," on a lower budget).
Also well done are the performances by Jang and Lee, when Sin and his sister reunite. But consistent with the rest of the film, the sibling plot falls just short of evoking a tearful response.