during a lull in this frenetic South Korean police procedural, a senior officer declares, "A cop has to be ready to run." It's an apt motto for this stylish flick in which two detectives obsessively track a suave, murderous gangster (Ahn Sung-Ki). Handsome family man Kim (Jang Dong-Kun) recalls a young Chow Yun Fat while partnered Odd Couple-style with Woo (Park Joong-Hoon), who anchors the film with his odd gravity. His doughy, shambling presence is part Columbo, part Chris Farley, but he's no clown. Woo eagerly pounds a handcuffed suspect with a folding chair, offers him a conciliatory cigarette, then prepares to bludgeon him with an aluminum baseball bat. Clearly he's a loose cannon, a venerable cop-movie clich鬠but the swaggering slob wins you over with his hardheaded chutzpah.
NOWHERE TO HIDE
written and directed by Lee Myung-Se with Park Joong-Hoon, Jang Dong-Kun, and Ahn Sung-Ki runs January 26-February 1 at Varsity
In depicting this adrenaline-packed police investigation, director Lee Myung-Se is less interested in the gunplay of John Woo or Sam Peckinpah than in the visual, impressionistic storytelling associated with Wong Kar-wai. He mixes film stocks, skips frames, plays with camera speeds, and freeze-frames the action to heighten and intensify the old tropes of recognition and pursuit we know so well from Dragnet and Starsky and Hutch. Pelting rain, swirling snow, garish neon, and countless reflection shots build to a vertiginous pitch—even if the basic characters and situations are well familiar.
Allowing for sentimental detours, occasional narrative lapses, and an overscored soundtrack (think cheesy '80s guitars with '90s techno beats), Nowhere is yet another example of how Asian filmmaking's diversity is shaking up world cinema. Lee has obviously absorbed the influence of his counterparts in Hong Kong, Taiwan, and China, and learned a few tricks from MTV and Tarantino as well. But he forsakes the flying lead of John Woo and sends his mob of rowdy cops running into battle with bare fists and steel truncheons. In a film this viscerally exciting, bullets would be too easy.