Wednesday, September 9, 2009


As entertaining as it is, who would have thought that Shiri was shot with a budget of $8.5 million? If you don't take in consideration the film's production value, its commercial success in South Korea and the action sequences, what you get is nothing but a film that makes you roll your eyes for its poor artistic value.

In 1992, as the North Korean army organizes a brutal training of assassins in the countryside, Lee Bang-hee (Kim Yunjin) turns out to be the best. She's sent to South Korea by her superior, Park Mu-young (Choi Min-sik), as a sniper in order to assassinate important South Korean political figures. Because of that two South Korean agents, Yu Jong-won (Han Suk-kyu) and Lee Jang-gil (Song Kang-ho), two South Korean special agents, have tried for many years to arrest her. However, things get complicated since Bang-hee changed her look with plastic surgery.

Besides, after so many years of tension, North and South Korea decide to ease their diplomatic relation through a friendly soccer match between both countries. Obviously, Park Mu-young disobeys the orders from his government and plans with Bang-hee to detonate a binary liquid explosive in a stadium of Seoul on the day of the game. Therefore, will agents Lee and Yu manage to find Bang-hee and Park as the clock is ticking?

Although the action scenes would look quite simple, Shiri does a fine job in the entertainment department. With its captivating gunfights, its clock-ticking suspense à la Hollywood, its pace and its hand-held cinematography, Shiri has it all. However, if we leave aside the action scenes, Shiri is unsatisfying. This goes without saying that using the word "formulaic" to describe it is an understatement. In fact, scriptwriter/director Kang Je-gyu only assigns the most basic motivations to his two leading characters (to arrest Bang-hee) that any attempt to add depth by showing the characters' personal life makes us laugh. Besides, without giving away the vital details of the story, the plot twist at the end definitely falls flat because the importance of some supporting characters (ex: Bang-hee) is unfortunately downplayed.

In short, to us, Westerners, Shiri is just a disposable entertaining film that can be forgotten no matter how thrilling this film is. However, the film will be remembered in years to come for it represents the first attempt by South Korea's "new wave" of filmmakers to make commercial films and to compete with the world.

Rating: 2/5

Origin:South Korea (1999)
Length:125 minutes
Screenplay:Kang Je-gyu
Director:Kang Je-gyu
Starring:Han Suk-kyu, Choi Min-sik, Song Kang-ho and Kim Yunjin

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