Dir: Hae-Sung Song,South Korea, 2010, 124 Minutes
Cast: Jin-Mo Ju, Seung-Heon Song, Kang-Woo Kim
Reviewed by Matt Duddy
The big budget Korean remake of John Woo’s seminal 1986 classic finally arrives in the UK two years after wowing Asian audiences.
Hyuk (Jin-Mo Ju) and Lee Young-Chun (Seung-Heon Song) are both high ranking mobsters in Busan, South Korea, Hyuk enjoys living the high life but hides a shameful secret; during his escape from North Korea he left his mother and younger brother Chul (Kang-Woo Kim) behind and does not know if they are dead or alive.
Hyuk is arrested attempting to broker an arms deal and is sentenced to serve three years in prison, upon his release, Hyuk travels back to his old stomping ground only to find that his once lost brother Chul has made it across the border and is now a police officer in Busan.
Desperate to make amends, Hyuk turns his back on the life he once lived and attempts to make peace with Chul, this peace is shattered when Chul delivers the news that their mother was killed because of Hyuk’s defection to the south.
Fearing that he has lost his brother for a second time, Hyuk visits a now crippled Young-Chun for advice only to be pulled into helping Young-Chun on one last job which results in a mob war with one of their former associates. As the bodies begin to pile up, Chul is tasked with bringing the feud to an end and the inevitability of facing his brother one last time.
Although John Woo does not have much control over this remake aside from an executive producer credit, it feels like the film had been directed by Woo himself, the production is highly stylised, the script crackles with pacy dialogue and Woo’s familiar themes of family, honour and revenge run deeply throughout.
Some story aspects that weighed the 1986 original down have either been dumped or re-written for this updated version and there is more character development so the viewer has a hard decision to make as to whose side they are on. John Woo films are known for their highly charged action sequences and A Better Tomorrow 2012 is no different, the shootouts are frantic and brutal, hand to hand scenes are choreographed well and there are plenty of slow motion shots with the obligatory endless supply of bullets, the only thing missing is the doves.