On the sofa: No blood no tears

One of the best kept secrets in London is the free sessions put on by the Korean Cultural Centre just off Trafalgar Square. I caught the last film of the year to be shown at the centre. No blood No tears is a Korean heist story. Gyung-Sun is a former safe-cracker who has reformed and become a taxi driver.

Her husband is in the wind and left behind a lot of gambling debts that local loan sharks try to collect on. She doesn’t know where her child is and to cap it all Gyung-Sun has a difficult relationship with the police and her short temper.

A chance car accident brings her into contact with a petty gangsters moll and a plot ensues to rob the dog fighting arena where illegal gambling takes place. What ensues is a film that is part comedy, part Thelma & Louise and a healthy dose of ultra-violence that would be familiar to Hong Kong cinema and Tarantino fans.

Over the next few weeks I will be getting my fix of Korean cinema at the London Korean Film Festival. I can recommend from personal experience:

  • Raging Currents
  • The Man From Nowhere
  • The Classified File

On the sofa: The Raid 2

Coming back to the UK reminded me of how much Hong Kong is a cinema-centric culture despite the technology, mobile devices and amazing restaurants. Going to the cinema there was literally half the price of London, which means that I am much more critical of the entertainment shown. The first film I have seen that was actually worth it’s ticket price since I have got back is The Raid 2.

The Raid put the Indonesian martial arts scene on the map with a highly kinetic film that owed much of its visual intensity to computer games. The Raid 2 follows on just hours from the first film; but is an entirely different beast.  As you can see from the trailer, there is still lashings of Indonesian-style ultra-violence

But the film’s pace ebbs and flows in order to tell a more detailed story this time around, which feels very much like an early John Woo, pre-Hollywood. There is a nod to Quentin Tarantino with some of the gimmicky characters such as Hammer Girl.

On the sofa: Safe House

When I see that name Ryan Reynolds on a poster I cringe. Reynolds has appeared in a number of unintentionally comic roles from the Green Lantern to Blade Trinity; or the Marks & Spencers marketing campaign.  So I had my expectations set pretty low for Safe House.

Safe House is a beautifully shot film based in modern-day South Africa; a paranoia-driven thriller a la 3 Days of The Condor, but for the war on terror rather than the cold war. Reynolds does a pretty good job of playing a convincing scared novice CIA officer. What brings it is the ensemble cast around him like Brendan Gleeson who recently stared in The Guard.

The story ends in a bloody Reservoir Dogs-esque climax, whilst there are no surprises the film takes the audience along for an enjoyable ride.

The trailer is on Tudou so may need some patience whilst it loads.

On the sofa: Mission Impossible – Ghost Protocol

I realise that this is a belated take on the film, but I was laid up ill over Christmas so only got see it recently. I am not a Tom Cruise fan and didn’t have high hopes for the film so I wasn’t disappointed. It has the same kind of action set-pieces that one has grown to expect from the franchise. I have a little more time for it than most of its ilk as John Woo directed the second film in the franchise – not the greatest of his works, but if he can see something in the franchise, I’ll sit through the films. The film opens with a prison break with a fight sequence that was like a poor imitation of the Bourne movies.

The film had a great ensemble of actors including Michael Nyqvist (who would be familiar to those who have seen The Girl trilogy of Swedish films) as the villain of the piece in a role that was only slightly understated compared to Alan Rickman in the original Die Hard.

The action does have peaks and troughs so it doesn’t feel quite as unrelenting as say a Transformers film. The shots based in Dubai make good use of the city state’s sky line, though in reality the cast would have been killed on the country’s notoriously dangerous roads if they had attempted a tenth of what they did in the film.

Product placement

As with previous Mission Impossible films, product placement featured quite heavily in the film. BMW supplied its Vision Efficientdynamics Concept car; a plug in hybrid that looks like the love child of a BMW M1 and a Tron light bike. It was interesting that extensive use was also made of a Land Rover defender, a BMW 1 series and what looked like a 6-series convertible.

it was interesting to see that an effort was made to tone down Apple’s product placement: whilst there were a number of iPhones, iPads and a MacBook Air on view; the MacBook Air came with a cover to subdue the illuminated logo on the back of the case. This is in sharp contrast to competitors like Nokia on Tron or The Dark Knight which amped up the on screen brand imagery of their products as well as the form factor.

Visual lanaguage

Interesting to note that in general anything that had a blue aura around it, was supposed to be high technology from server rooms to gizmos that got the cast in and out of sticky situations. Technology gets pimped (as in Pimp My Ride) with blue LEDs and cold tubes hidden around the case.

On the sofa: Love And Other Drugs | 电影审查

I got to see Love And Other Drugs which was a surprisingly adult (for Hollywood anyway) romantic comedy with a good ensemble of actors.  Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway give great performances but the real joy is supporting characters played by Hank Azaria as a corrupt doctor, Lilly Pharmaceuticals super-salesman Gabriel Macht and Oliver Plat as Gyllenhaal’s boss and mentor.

The sub-plot of the romance is set in the pharmaceutical sales environment of the US in the late 1990s and does for the the pharmaceutical industry what Glengarry Glen Ross did for the housing sector.

The film prominently features Pfizer and Lilly as an central part of the story in a way that I am sure they wouldn’t want to be portrayed including hard-ball pharmaceutical sales tactics and a Viagra-induced medical emergency.

I am not a rom-com watcher, but I would quite happily watch this film on DVD again.