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Nowhere to Hide
Year: 1999 "Shoryuken!"
Park Jung-hoon and Ahn Sung-Ki spar
Director: Lee Myung-sae
Cast: Park Jung-hoon, Ahn Sung-ki, Jang Dong-gun, Choi Ji-woo
The Skinny : Lee Myung-sae has been called the "Korean Wong Kar-wai" for his visual creativity, irreverent genre deconstruction and unconventional narratives. Here he steps out of the romantic comedy genre and creates this exciting, visually stunning exercise in style. It revived Park Joong-hoon's career, and gave hope to those who want something more than another Heroic Bloodshed clone or the umpteenth Young and Dangerous spin-off.
Review
by LunaSea:
     For years, reality wasn't marketable for action movies. Directors were more interested in showing unrealistic icons or glamorizing young delinquents. That's until Lee Myung-sae entered the arena with Nowhere To Hide, and it became the fourth most watched film of the year in Korea. Soon, the film was met with acclaim from Festivals all over the World, and a US and European release followed.
     Nowhere To Hide
shows what other action movies are afraid to: real life. Cops aren't any better (or worse) than criminals, and they don't necessarily have heroic values behind their actions. It's just a job which mostly consists of waiting, waiting and waiting some more. Lee explores the full range of cop emotions with this film, from adrenaline rushes to "boring" stakeouts, and from intense, wacky anime-like fights, to cops and criminals eating ramen noodles together.
     The film introduces the main characters in impressive fashion. Detective Woo (Park Jung-hoon) is loud, brutal and Machiavellian; to solve a case, anything goes. He's not great with guns, can't fight particularly well and isn't too smart. But he can run, and that's what detectives are supposed to do (other than "wasting time," as he says). It's the chase that gives sense to his life. Thanks to the director, we feel like the character: excited during the chase, but increasingly disconnected with everything else (family, friends, home) and this is intentional. Chang Sung-min (Ahn Sung-ki) is the killer, and he's brilliant, devious, cool and elegant. The film centers around the rivalry between Woo and Sung-min, and everything that happens in between. This includes a two-minute long chase sequence told in a single take, and a dramatic finale in the rain.
     Nowhere To Hide criticizes the stereotypical action character and, in a way, even the audience. In this kind of film, "trivial" things like family and friendship become secondary to the thrills of action, chases or fights. Using a simple plot (a cat and mouse chase between the two main characters), Lee develops something much deeper. The film is a genre satire (of both HK-style cop action flicks and flufier Korean action/comedies like Kang Woo-suk's Two Cops trilogy), and an interesting exercise in style over substance (where style is substance, and doesn't detract from the overall experience).
     Park Joong-hoon is simply memorable, with his bulldog-ish mug, forced expression and lumbering movements. He worked for the most important directors of the first New Wave (Park Kwang-su's The Black Republic, Jang Sun-woo's The Lovers of Woomuk-baemi), but became famous for his roles in the Two Cops saga and other Kang Woo-suk comedies like How To Top My Wife. This is an interesting mix of his comedic persona with a more intelligent, multi-layered character. As always, Ahn Sung-ki is spectacular. He's like a chameleon, fitting every role perfectly. Just from his facial expression, we're able to understand his personality; there's no need for words.
     Lee smartly uses the influences and conventions of the genre (as well as Anime, Wong Kar-Wai, Quentin Tarantino, JoPok flicks and others), and takes advantage of them. This is not a film about the conflict of good vs bad. It's instead a look at the what drives the opposing figures of the genre. With incredible cinematography and eye-catching set pieces, an excellent soundtrack ranging from Korean heavy metal to Trip Hop, and even The Bee Gees (!), Lee has created something unique. This is a film that directly connects with you through image and sound. It doesn't need a story or engaging characters (even if the performances achieve that anyway). This is a film that plays on your emotions with a force that isn't usually seen in the genre (with the notable exceptions of Takashi Miike and Seijun Suzuki). Sensational. (LunaSea 2002)
Availability: DVD (Korea)
Region 0 NTSC
Spectrum DVD
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1
Removable English Subtitles
 

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