Nowhere to Hide

(Injong sajong polkot opta)

Style over substance is the defining mantra for Myung-se Lee (Their Last Love Affair, Bitter and Sweet) for Nowhere to Hide. Lee takes all of the stylistic trappings from movies like Pulp Fiction and combines them with old-fashioned gritty crime noir dramas, creating a stunningly visual but emotionally empty film. The cops have no qualms about beating up men (and women) to get the answers they want. Detectives Kim and Woo are on the track of killer. Their investigation takes months, so apparently there is a place to hide.

Woo (Joong-Hoon Park, Double Edge, Wanted) does not look like a cop. He is a little round in the face, and very muscular. He swaggers when he walks and slouches his shoulders. He is also prone to extreme fits of violence. When he wants something, there is nothing that can stop him and his partner Kim (Dong-Kun Jang). Their relentless pursuit of Sungming (Sung-kee Ahn, The Soul Guardians, Spring in My Hometown), who always manages to stay barely one step in front of them, propels the film forward. It takes a couple beatings before they are able to deduce Sungming's identity. After that, it is a cat-and-mouse game of chase. Woo is so intently focused on his job that he is estranged from his wife and family. He derives joy from pummeling helpless perps and daring them to sue him.

Lee switches between kinetic action sequences and moments of near monotony. When the cops wait in an apartment, there is little conversation, and policeman yawn waiting for something to happen. But when it does, it explodes onto the screen. Lee speeds up and slows down the action, makes the film grainy, and changes colors on the screen. He has lights glint off nearly continuous falling rain during brutal fight sequences. He also uses camera tricks to disorient the viewer, and favors a camera spinning around combatants in between blows. It's almost enough to make somebody forget that there was a story here somewhere. The story is basic television fodder and just counts time between action sequences. The only indication that an extraordinary amount of time passed is the reminder on the screen, it does not add any sense of urgency.

Mongoose Rates It: Okay.
1 hour, 50 minutes, Korean with English subtitles, Not Rated but contains violence and language, an easy R.

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