EDIT: So sorry the folowing review is based on the full version and not the hacked to pieces offering that Fox have put out both on DVD and Az Instant Video. It is a 5 star film, but only when viwed in its entirity. Please see the reviews for the DVD that explain furtheron Az.US, the full version with English subs is available in Region 2 from Az.UK
This is a truly stupendous film that takes a while to sink in. It is South Korean (with sub titles) but starts its story in Yanju City in the Yanbian Province of China. This is an area next to the borders of North Korea, Russia and China, the local Koreans are referred to as Joseonjoks and Gu Nam (Ha Jung-Woo) is one such man. He has borrowed 60,000 Yuan to send his wife to a better life in Korea, but that was six months ago and he has not heard from her, most suspect that she is a bit of a flibbertigibbet and as such has dumped him and their daughter for the high life of making a living from lying down. He meanwhile has to repay the debt to some local low life's. The money he makes as a taxi driver is not a lot, so he augments this by gambling on Mah-Jong.
However, he is as adept at gambling as a high wire actor with vertigo. Thus his debts start mounting, then he gets approached by local gangster and all round nasty bloke, Myun jung-Hak (Kim Yoon-seok), who offers him a wad of cash and a bank deposit account - without the Pin. He gets that on delivery of the thumb of a Korean man he wants to be `taken out', and I don't mean to a local restaurant.
Thus he is despatched to South Korea, but things do not go as planned and whilst trying to find his wife and carry out the job, he unintentionally end up being on the wrong side of the Chinese mafia, the police and the Korean mob.Read more ›
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42 of 46 people found the following review helpful
THIS VERSION IS SEVERELY EDITED! This is NOT the international cut. It's definitely not the Korean cut.Feb. 26 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
This is a horribly edited, watered down version of the film. Apparently Fox Studios thought it was too much for American audiences to handle so they literally edit and completely take out some of the films most defining, and intense scenes. This film is NOT worth owning with this cut. They basically take the movie from NC-17 to PG-13. I know it's R, but they even dumb down some of the dialogue to not make the movie be so grim. This is a non-Western action movie, and it's very obvious. So much so, Fox EDITED out everything that makes Korean films Korean. If you're a fan of The Chaser, I Saw the Devil, Oldboy or any of the other great Korean thrillers out there. Imagine all the action being cut out. You don't see the raw, realistic, horrific killings. You don't get the full fight scenes. You're watching a product stripped of its artistry and soul because Fox doesn't think you can handle it. What's worse, they didn't even release a BLU-RAY of this movie yet THEY MADE Korea's blu-ray release NOT include English subtitles to prevent people from around the world from importing it. They do that, and then don't even give you the actual product. Please, torrent this movie with soft coded subtitles or wait for UK's blu-ray to come out. It'll require a multi-region blu-ray player, but you'll get to see the film in high def and as the director intended. Not as Fox intended.
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
Korean VersionMarch 23 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
As the previous reviewer, Jarrett "2cC," has warned, the American version of this film by Fox is not the version to view or purchase. Instead, you can currently obtain the blu-ray Korean director's cut from yesasia.com, complete with the director's commentary.
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
This Fox World Cinema Release Should be Your Absolute Last ResortMarch 29 2012
The Film Dude
- Published on Amazon.com
Officially, there are two releases of the film: A Theatrical Cut which was released in Korean theaters and clocks in at 156 minutes; A Director's Cut which was released internationally and clocks in at 140 minutes. The Theatrical Cut is only available in S. Korea on DVD and BR and is one of the few Korean releases which does not have English subtitles thanks to Fox International stipulations. The Director's Cut just received a DVD and Blu-ray release in the UK. Unfortunately, both are region-coded. The latter is not a problem if you have a region-free DVD/Blu-ray which can be had for a reasonable price nowadays.
As for this particular release, not only did Fox International skip the Blu-ray format, they made their own edits to the Director's Cut of the film by removing three minutes from it. I have seen the full cut of the film and I can assure you the violence in it is not any worse than what you'd see in a typical episode of The Walking Dead. The demographic of this movie is highly likely to be those who saw the director's first film "The Chaser" which was quite gritty and violent. This is not the kind of film Mr. Joe Sixpack would seek so why go through the trouble of watering it down?!
I just find it ironic that Fox International would partly finance the production of this film and buy the distribution rights to it then treat it and dump it like a straight-to-video 'B' movie.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A Hellish Journey to One's Own Personal Hell!-Review of the Exciting, Tighter Director's Cut!Aug. 22 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Director Na Hong-jin's "The Chaser" shattered several box-office records in Korea and even won two major film awards in the 2008 Grand Bell Awards (best director and best film). Now, almost four years after its release, Na Hong-jin's follow up film finally gets released in the U.S. by Fox. "The Yellow Sea" was originally released in 2010 and received some coverage in the Cannes film festival. Those who have seen Na's first movie would remember "The Chaser" as a tightly-wound thriller that channels a lot of emotion and was a film based on a true story. "The Yellow Sea" may not be based on a true event, but rather based on the Joseonjoks in a region between China, Russia and Korea.
There has been some confusion as to what is the director's cut of this movie since the film originally debuted as a 156 minute movie in Korea while the director's cut is 140 minutes long. The U.S. Dvd being released by Fox only has a runtime of 137 minutes. I have done my research and the shorter, tighter 140 minute version is indeed Na Hong-jin's director's cut. This review is based on this 140 minute version, and honestly, it is so hard to spot the difference between the 140 and 137 minute versions. Perhaps it is because the U.S. NTSC Dvd was converted from the U.K. PAL format? I have no idea.
In the Yanbian province of China, Gu-Nam (Ha Jung-Woo), an ethnic Korean or a Joseonjok, is a disadvantaged cab driver whose evenings are mostly consists of hanging around gambling halls and drinking. He is also neck-deep in debt as he had taken a loan from gambling sharks in order for his wife to be able to legally migrate into Korea. To make matters worst, he has not heard from her since she left and is tormented by nightmares of her extra-marital affair while being hounded by his debt collectors. Gu-Nam sees a way out as a local gangster named Myun Jung-Hak (Kim Yeon-Seok) offers him a deal; all he has to do is to allow himself to be smuggled into Korea to kill a businessman and all his debts will be settled. Gu-Nam agrees and upon his arrival, he scopes out his target while at the same time, he searches for his wife. When the time does come to finish his mission, a string of coincidences and unexpected events occur that leaves him desperately looking for a way out. Now, Gu-Nam is being pursued by the Myun`s gang, the South Korean Mob and the police. What Gu-Nam discovers is something that would shock his being to its core.
"The Yellow Sea" is one tight, exciting and intense thriller, and can be a difficult movie to review without spoilers but I will try. It is marvelously visceral, justly brutal with a simple set up and premise, but yet, the film's structure and the manner it unfolds becomes such a cinematic treat. Na's director's cut have cut off the `fillers', changed some scenes and made the movie much more intense and exciting than the original extended cut. The violence have been kept intact and the film is as sexual as the extended cut. What Na did well, was make for a much more cinematic experience with added flair and impact than what was originally released (the voiceover and the photo of a child in the beginning is one of the director`s cut best changes). The messages in its narrative had been preserved and the shorter version only made for a much more exciting watch.
As with most Korean movies, the film spends some time developing its main character. There is an almost methodical approach with the way Na brought in the details of Gu-Nam's character. It was wise to really move the film in a way that truly justified the cause of his actions, it makes for a character that you can easily feel sympathy for. He is a man at the end of his rope, with a child and only his mother helping him raise her. It was a build-up which was effective that allowed a connection to the Joseonjok situation in Korea and China. This build up makes for a more satisfying experience as soon as the film began to take off, the viewer becomes set to root for his character while at the same time, begins to question the motivations behind each main character as represented by Myun and Kim Tae-Won (Seong -Ha Cho). The direction knew how to play on the screenplay's best strengths, it wasn't that twists and turns were original or stunning, but rather the way it executes the screenplay is set on careful manipulation that keeps one guessing. With its tight editing, good cinematography, interesting characters and careful directorial manipulations, the screenplay would have no problems engaging its viewer.
The film is filled with intense chases, brutal fights and fast-paced action to drive its momentum. The set ups are certainly credible as you see Gu-Nam stumble across Korea in desperation. The film had some pretty wicked fights which were executed with visceral realism. Axes, knives and baseball bats are the weapons of choice, but even a huge Boar bone can fit the bill. The combatants were no fighters with a lot of finesse and style, but rather you could see that they are real people; they are afraid and they are willing to do whatever it takes to live through the struggle. One could easily feel the emotions behind each encounter.
Many may say that Myun is a genre character and he may seem a tad cartoonish with his total awesomeness. Myun played by Kim Yeon-Seok was tough, mean, single-minded and totally relentless. Kim nearly stole the show as he closes in on his objective. Much of the movie is seen through the eyes of Gu-Nam and Ha Jung-Woo certainly delivers as someone who is certainly at the end of his rope. I could certainly feel his desperation and his resolve to redeem himself. The Kim Tae-Won character (played well by Cho) is by no means a special supporting role and he may be bordering on cliché, but he was a necessary one to achieve the film's narrative force. The screenplay may not be perfect since it left one device barely developed, but they were just tiny flaws to even nit-pick.
Director Na Hong-jin truly out did himself with his second film. I liked "The Chaser" a great deal, and I truly cannot say just which of his films is better. It is amazing how a simple story if handled by an unskilled director would no doubt only be bordering on `fair', while in Na's hands, a premise such as this could be this incredible. It is to the director's credit that a screenplay that works around familiar devices could become such a compelling story because of the manner it is told. Na did a fine job because of his editing, timing and good old fashioned know-how. "The Yellow Sea" is dramatic, poignant, intense, powerful, filled with surprises and twists that it thrilled and truly kept me at the edge of my seat up to its final scene.
The 140 minute Director's Cut is the better version.
Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This is the definetive cutAug. 20 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Some of the reviews are completly off. This cut was made by the director because he was not satisfied with the Korean theatrical cut that was too rushed. This edit is now color corrected and is much tighter in the 2nd half and better for it.