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 […]

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 […]

Kim Jin-kyu and Lee Eun-shim in Kim Ki-young's original "The Housemaid" from South Korea

‘The Housemaid’ – The 1960 Korean classic on FilmStruck

Kim Ki-young’s The Housemaid (South Korea, 1960) is a classic of South Korean cinema but until Criterion released the film on disc in 2013 it was largely unknown (or at least unseen) to even the most dedicated cinephile apart from its inspiration for Im Sang-soo’s 2010 remake. As I discovered, the two films couldn’t be […]

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 DVD and SVOD

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 […]

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

‘The Host’ on Netflix and Amazon Prime

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 […]