No Tears for the Dead (2014): South Korean Bloody Redemption

Film poster for No Tears for the Dead
Very few filmmakers can do bloody redemption like South Korean cinema, although the Pang Bros do a cracking job, and the 2014 feature No Tears for the Dead is the perfect example of an almost soap opera style thriller/drama where a hitman tries to make amends for an accidental killing at the very start of the film.

Written and directed by Jeong-beom Lee, it is his third film, and starring The Warrior’s Way Gong-Don Jang, Min-Hee Kim (Hellcats, Helpless) and Brian Tee (Jurassic World, The Wolverine) No Tears for the Dead follows the journey of Gon, an American trained Korean hitman who works for a Triad organization.

At the start of the film, a group of gangsters are in the back room of a casino, or club, and a little Korean girls sits on her own with an origami stork on the table in front of her. She is listening to a singer. Back n the room, a man forces his way in and begins killing everyone with a silenced pistol. As he finishes up there is a noise at the room’s exit. The man fires blindly though the closed door and when he opens it, an origami bird is on the floor and the little girl has been shot through the chest.

Later, the Triad boss he works for tells the hitman, Gon, to kill the child’s mother once they retrieve a file her deceased husband sent her via an email. Gon, (Gong-Don Jang) is overcome with guilt and remorse at his inadvertent murder of an innocent. The gang have to break into his house to find him and once there they discover he has drunk himself into a stupor and Gon has passed out covered in vomit.

Gon is sent to Korea, a country he has not been to since he and his mother left years ago. The hitman’s mother tried to desert him in America and later kills herself. The hitman goes to the country of his birth and as he attempts to recover the file; he breaks into Mo-Kyoeng’s (played by Min-Hee Kim) house, he is surrounded by the essence of little Yumi, the girl he killed earlier. The child’s growth chart, art work from her school and, because Gon has cloned the mother’s cell phone, he sees pictures and videos of the dead girl.

When the Korean mob boss, who works for the Triads, learns that Mo-Kyeong has accessed the file, Gon is ordered to kill the grieving mother. Entering her house, he finds the woman unconscious on her couch having taken several bottles of pills. He fires his gun at the arm of the settee, over her head, and calls 911.

When Mo-Kyeong is in the hospital, a group of assassins, colleagues of Gon, are hired to kill them both. His old friend and mentor Chaoz (Lee) heads up the deadly gang and it becomes a battle of wits, bullets, blood and betrayal as Gon tries to make up for murdering the woman’s daughter by saving her life. My-Yeong must also fight and she almost loses to the killers more than once.

While this could be seen as a sort of “pot boiler” drama set around a hitman, the film is not too dissimilar from the 1998 Chinese film The Replacement Killers with Yun-Fat Chow and Mira Sorvino or even the Pang Bros 2000 film Bangkok Dangerous.

*On a sidenote, the latter film was remade with Nicolas Cage in 2008; avoid this shabby and abysmal film at all costs.*

There are prolonged shootouts with a variety of weapons, some brilliantly choreographed fights between Gon and the bad guys and a fair few good twists and turns to the plot. Add in some great little ironic events and a few touching moments of backstory and No Tears for the Dead becomes a 5 out of 5 star film.

Partially subtitled; with the Chinese gangsters and Gon conversing in English throughout the film, this South Korean film cracks on at a rapid pace and makes the run time of just under two hours feel much shorter. As this is just Jeong-beom Lee’s third film keep an eye on this filmmaker and expect to see much more of his work. Do not miss this one.

Life in the Real Desert: A Day of Rest

Schwinn 700C - my bike

After a busy Saturday spent learning that no one in town really wants to buy anything despite what their signs say and watching the screener of Awaken at Burger King it was decided, by me, to rest on the seventh day of life in the real desert. Although to be quite honest, contrary to what my Facebook post says, I was tired from riding my new bike over 14 miles each and every day for six straight days. The final deciding factor was looking down and seeing bruises on my legs.

While not too concerning, they are the result of taking one of my heart medications, it bothered me enough that I felt Sunday would be best spent writing my review for Awaken, starring Natalie Burn, and possibly writing an article or two as well as posting on my blog.

As with most “best made plans” about the only real thing accomplished was sleeping in and writing the review. Forgetting that the Internet is agonizingly slow out here in the middle of the desert, my plans were waylaid fairly easily. On the plus side, a little RV cleaning was done with the idea that a clean home is a happy home.

This was also a chance to catch up on my Asian cinema DVD collection and watch some old favorites. The Pang Bros’ Recycle, Takeshi Miike’s One Missed Call, and the Korean knock off of Kim Ji-Woon’s Tale of Two Sisters; Epitaph. All of these are films that I can watch over and over. After a triple serving of Asian horror, it was time to watch Kiss Kiss Bang Bang with Downey, Kilmer and Monaghan directed by the more than capable Shane Black.

It was interesting to learn that as Quartzsite nears the end of its season, that no one on the main drag wanted to buy a wireless Apple keyboard or magic mouse (hardly used). Of course having to explain to the store owner (“We Buy, Sell, Trade”) what a magic mouse was could have had something to do with it. Although the shop did have laptop carry cases for sale…

The other strike out was a place that buys old coins, gold, antiques etc. Granted, my trip was just to see what sort of offer might be given for an old 1926 silver dollar and a silver 50 cent piece. Turns out, according the the chap who runs the shop, that 1926 was not a “spectacular” year for silver dollars. This meant that the price for the coin was $16. Interesting, but not enough to persuade me to sell this old bit of change.

The guy was not too bothered that I did not want to part with the coin, “After all,” he said, “16 bucks won’t buy a meal at McDonalds these days.” I did not want to argue, but I could have eaten several $1 cheeseburgers over the course of a number of meals. Still, one man’s cheap burger is another man’s super size quarter pounder with cheese.

Apart from checking on whether personal retail really was a possibility in Quartzsite, it was odd to see the town so deserted. In an odd way, the place feels more comfortable, if not safer. The old snowbirds who flock to this town all suffer from diminished driving skills. The fact that they have driven to another area is, overall, a good thing.

Although to be fair, it isn’t just the aged who drive as though they have left their brain at home in the walk-in closet. On one afternoon, while walking to town, I was almost hit by a lorry (a semi in USA speak), an RV who was towing a trailer behind it almost as long as the RV itself, an idiot in a pickup truck who passed another car and came so far toward the other side of the road that I had to leap to safety and some jackass who left so little room between me and the car that a mosquito would have been killed had it tried to fly in the gap.

Other times, there are drivers who refuse to leave a door’s width between their speeding vehicle and my bike. Not too upsetting if they are slowly passing by, but most are hitting around 50 mph. The combination of being way too close and too much speed has, on more than one occasion, almost made my heart leap out of my throat.

The point being that out of all those dangerous drivers mentioned above, none appeared to be over 40.

Still, my day of rest has allowed me to ponder what the summer months will bring and how much I need to set up a routine. Getting up early has never been my thing. I can do so and have but not willingly or well. Still, I now know that I am becoming a “regular” at one fast food place, Burger King, and staff at a lot of shops speak more readily now and will share a little laugh occasionally.

The weird way I speak helps. Having an accent that people mistake for Australian “Throw some shrimp on the barbie and crack open a few tinnies mate,” always helps to make one more memorable. There will obviously come a point where I do not have to explain where the accent comes from and that I was actually born in this country. Until then, it is (pun intended) a talking point which allows me to be that bit more approachable.

My list of things to write about, in the small town of Quartzsite, includes the small empty house on the way to town and the local celebrity (silent film star) who was given a sword by the famous Pancho Villa. There are many other things about life in the real desert which are fascinating and these will also be addressed whilst I write my own stories and continue to seek monetary recompense for articles written.

8 March 2015

Fargo Episode 2 the Quirkiness Continues to Work

Fargo Episode 2 the Quirkiness Continues to Work

AMC’s small screen version of Fargo continues to work, it’s high level of quirkiness is still evident in episode 2 and despite its slow pace, the show is rapidly becoming an almost addictive experience. Perhaps the public is ready for a new type of Twin Peaks with an almost somnambulistic delivery of plot twists and turns. It has to be said, however, that despite the slowness of the show’s theme, the cast assembled for the series are hitting high notes that will most definitely resonate with the audience.