Kim Hyeong-jun in his debut did what everyone was doing in S. Korea back in 2010. He shot a crime thriller with aesthetics similar to Hollywood, except the grotesque depiction of violence, which is a genuine trait of S. Korean cinema.
When the police discover a dismembered body near a river, they ask from coroner Kang, one of the leaders in the field to assist them in ascertaining the cause of death. Coincidently, Min, a former student of Kang's, is also part of the police team investigating the crime. Every piece of evidence they discover points toward the extremist environmentalist Lee and the case seems to close when he is arrested. However, things become complicated when Kang's daughter is kidnapped and he has to fabricate evidence in order to save her.
Kim Hyeong-jun directed and penned a film which is characterized by directness, without any compromises in depiction, as it becomes evident with the scene of the autopsy and a number of sex scenes, whose purpose is not to shock, but to strengthen the element of agony. Additionally, the script entails a plethora of plot twists that keep the tension throughout its whole duration. Another point of excellence, which only Korean filmmakers seem to include so frequently in their films, is that the culprit is known from the beginning and the film focuses on the effort for his conviction rather than the search for the guilty one, as is usually the case in Western productions.
Kim retains a dark and hopeless mood in the film, in an effort benefitting the most from Kim Woo-hyung's cinematography, which includes elaborate images both indoors and outdoors. The pace is also good with the assistance of Kim Sun-min's editing. The script, though, has some flaws, as the characters occasionally appear to act in utterly illogical, and even stupid fashion, and the ending is less than satisfactory, to say the least. These flaws, however, are not enough to ruin the general outcome of the film, which is quite good.
Sol Kyung-gu as Kang is as good as usual, despite the fact that the flaws in the script cause his character to appear naive at times, although the part demanded the exact opposite. The same applies to Ryu Seung-beom as Lee. However, the scenes where they both appear on screen compensate fully,as they are also the one where the production values truly shine. Han Hye-jin, who plays Min, is adequate in her part, and has some moments that definitely stick.
Despite being one of the lesser-known entries in the crime-thriller genre, "No Mercy" is a very entertaining film, another gem of the category.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available on DVD from Amazon and YESASIA
DVD US (En Sub)
DVD Single Disc (En Sub)
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via email@example.com.
"[Guest Film Review] "No Mercy" + DVD Giveaway"
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