Gong Yoo stars in the South Korean zombie film directed by Yeon Sang-ho

‘Train to Busan’ – Korean zombies on Netflix

You could call Train to Busan (South Korea, 2016) “Zombies on a Train”—it certainly makes a catchy logline and it frames the premise accurately and succinctly—but it reduces this fleet, fierce, unexpectedly human thriller to a mere gimmick. Apart from the slyly eerie prologue, the film opens without any hint of the viral rampage to […]

Woo-sung Jung, Byung-hun Lee, and Kang-ho Song in the Korean action blast from Kim Jee-Woon

‘The Good, the Bad, the Weird’- Kim Jee-won’s “Oriental Western” on Hulu

Kim Jee-won’s The Good, the Bad, the Weird (South Korea, 2008) is a self-proclaimed “Oriental Western.” That about pegs this treasure hunt right out of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly by way of Peking Opera Blues and Dragon Gate Inn, set in thirties Manchuria and filled with Korean expatriates, Chinese bandits, Japanese occupiers, […]

Bong Joon-ho stars in the gangster thriller from South Korea

‘The Man from Nowhere’ – South Korean vengeance on Amazon Prime Video and Hulu

The Man from Nowhere (South Korea, 2010) – South Korea’s top box office hit of 2010 is as slick and swift an underworld thriller as you’ll find. Matinee idol Won Bin (of Bong Joon-ho’s Mother) is a shaggy pawn shop proprietor in a miserable slum hiding from his past life as a highly-trained government agent […]

Kim Ok-bin stars in the South Korean action hit from Byung-gil Jung

‘The Villainess’ – a ferocious South Korean Nikita on Hulu

The Villainess (South Korea, 2017) is not a remake of La Femme Nikita but it is surely built from the DNA of that defining action classic. It opens on an amazing action sequence, a seemingly unbroken take from the jittery POV of some ferocious but still-unseen fighter wiping out armies of thugs with bullets, knives, […]

Song Kang-ho stars in the South Korean spy thriller by Kim Jee-woon

‘The Age of Shadows’ – Korean spy thriller on Netflix

Kim Jee-woon, director of such hits as hits The Good the Bad the Weird and I Saw the Devil, announced his return to South Korea after his Hollywood tryout with The Age of Shadows (South Korea, 2016, not rated, with subtitles), a sprawling spy thriller set in the underground resistance to the Japanese occupation of […]

Jo Jin-woong stars in the South Korean thriller from Lee Soo-young

‘Bluebeard’ – A South Korean serial killer on Netflix

In Bluebeard (South Korea, 2017), a meek, newly-divorced doctor starting over as a junior staff physician at a clinic serving a largely elderly population become the unwitting witness to what appears to be a confession to a series of unsolved serial killings by an old man under sedation. Dr. Byun Seung-hoon (Jo Jin-woong), already suffering […]

An Seo Hyun and friend in Bong Joon Ho's "Okja."

Bong Joon-ho’s ‘Okja’ on Netflix

Okja, a social satire/political allegory/action fantasy from Korean filmmaker Bong Joon-ho, skips theaters entirely to debut on Netflix. You may recall that it was a point of controversy at the Cannes Film Festival, not for its subject matter but because of the Netflix model of releasing its films straight to streaming. The Netflix logo elicited […]

Bong Joon-ho's 2006 South Korean monster movie 'The Host'

‘The Host’ – South Korean monster mash on Hulu

The Host (2006), Bong Joon-ho’s South Korean monster movie hit, is neither a parody, subversion, or revision of the often campy horror movie genre. It stirs a stew of genre conventions, from political commentary to dysfunctional family satire to earnest emotional pathos, into an often thrilling monster movie as indebted to the B-movies of seventies American […]

Kim Tae-ri, Kim Min-hee, and Ha Jung-woo star in the film by Park Chan-wook

Park Chan-wook’s ‘The Handmaiden’ on Amazon Prime

Park Chan-wook’s The Handmaiden (Sony, DVD) leaves behind the austerity and cool tone of his superb but unheralded American debut Stoker to return to the intense imagery, twisting narratives, perverse subcultures, and elevated emotions of his Sympathy trilogy. The story of con artists in 1930s Korea, adapted from the British novel “Fingersmith” by Sarah Waters […]

Simon Yam stars in the South Korean heist thriller

‘The Thieves’ – Korean high tech heist on Hulu

The Thieves (South Korea, 2012) is Asia’s answer to the Ocean’s films, a sleek, snappy heist movie with plenty of working parts, eccentric personalities, and convoluted plotlines complicated even more by a confusing flashback structure more entertaining than elucidating and more twists than you can easily track. The basic premise brings together two separate crack […]