Shiri (Hong Kong/English Title)
Running Time: 125 minutes
UK Certificate: 15
Country: Korea (South)
Upon its big screen release back in 1999, Shiri became the most successful Korean film ever. Thats right even more successful than that other one. Yknow. The one with, erm, that guy, doing the thing, with the stuff.
So, you might wonder, what is it about this movie that really connected with the good people of Korea? Whats distinct about this film that makes it different from the thick-flowing stream of Western popcorn fodder? What does it have that we havent seen before?
Thats the basic line of questioning that was going through my noggin when I stuck the DVD into my machine and the answer is underwhelming, to say the least. For what Shiri is, essentially, is a blatant carbon copy of every no-brain action blockbuster to have spilled out of America in the last 20 years. Clearly, this film wasnt loved in its native land because its different and original it was loved because its not. This is the movie that finally sees Asian cinema latch on to the bolshyness of an Arnie, Stallone or dare I say it Steven Seagal movie, and replicate it for its own audience. What a bloody sell-out.
Of course, thats not to say I completely disliked it. Its just that the plot about a gang of North Korean terrorist-types hijacking a powerful explosive and planting it around the city of Seoul doesnt do anything any of the Die Hard movies havent done better. Its got some nice touches, including the sub-plot about a double-crossing femme fatale and the football match-based finale (that final segment is nicely done, though I ended up just wanting to see the game and started getting annoyed when it kept cutting from the pitch and back to the story!).
What really kills Shiri is that its self-indulgent when, given how derivative and generic it is, it really has no right to be. Its 125-minute running time verges on the farcical, particularly as you could practically lop off the entire first hour and probably be left with a superior chunk of entertainment. In fact, I spent most of those first 60 minutes thinking I was going to get to use a joke in my review about replacing the r in the title with a t. Fortunately, its not quite as bad as all that.
By all means watch it and enjoy it, but just dont expect it to be anything different from your average Bruce Willis or Jean-Claude Van Damme action vehicle and, if youre a Korean, dont believe the hype.
It's Got: An incredible exploding woman.
It Needs: To dump the fish talk.
DVD Extras Filmographies, Mark Wyatts film notes, a standard making of piece, an Asia Extreme trailer reel, and a soppy music video entitled When I Dream. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10
Alternatives:Infernal Affairs, The Gingko Bed
Your average everyday run-of-the-mill action movie with optional subtitles.