Director: Lee Si-Myung
Producer: Stanley Kim
Cast: Jang Dong-Kun, Toru Nakamura, Masaaki Daimon, Shohei Imamura, Nobuyuki Katsube
Running Time: 136 min.
Do you like well-made action movies? Do you like wholesale scenes of carnage and destruction, complete with explosions, fistfights, and high-tech firearms? Do you thrill to the sight of fully-outfitted SWAT teams, armed to the gills and glaring through red-tinted visors? Do you enjoy the occasional romantic interlude between the leading actor and actress, amid all of the explosions? Do you appreciate movies that start off being one thing (an SDU-type flick), but by the end become something else (a time-traveling, sci-fi actioner)? If so, then 2009 Lost Memories is for you.
2009 is one of the few Korean movies I’ve seen that gets it right. Sure, it’s a bit long (two hours and sixteen minutes), but this was one of the few long movies I’ve seen that didn’t have me glancing at the clock. I can’t say that every single scene in the movie was necessary, but at the same time I can’t say that there were any useless, obvious cutting room fodder-type scenes, so I can excuse the long running length. But besides the length, which most Korean movies tend to abuse anyway, 2009 escapes the shackles that constrain most other movies from this country by avoiding overt exposition, shameful sappiness, and contrived situations. It’s like a Hollywood-produced film, but with all of the good stuff, and hardly any of the bad stuff that turns off Asian cinema fanatics.
Dong-kun Jang, who co-starred in “Nowhere to Hide” as the main cop’s partner, takes the lead role here as the driven Inspector Sakamoto. As we meet him, he is embroiled in a string of terrorism that’s being pulled off by a group of Korean subversives; a group that Sakamoto’s father also dealt with. Sakamoto’s dad was a cop, too, but was convicted of corruption and was killed by another cop when Sakamoto was seven years old. It appears that Sakamoto’s dad became an accomplice to the terrorists, and so now, twenty some years later, Sakamoto himself must deal with these terrorists, and prove that he’s not his father.
It is not until halfway into the movie that the “time travel” aspect rears its head, and I do admit that I enjoyed the first half more, if only because the “real world” action scenes were so well done. The opening set piece itself is just as good as Woo’s best, except the combatants in 2009 are decked out in more high-tech gear and handle some impressive hardware. I especially like the boss terrorist’s machine gun, which seems to have come straight out of James Cameron’s “Aliens.”
In a way, 2009 is like a Hollywood movie, just from some alternate reality, what with its all-Asian cast. The only thing that belies its lower-budgeted origin are a few poorly-rendered CGI shots, but these in no way detract from enjoyment of the film. 2009 is everything “Shiri” could have been; the romance isn’t sappy, there is a modicum of slow-paced scenes, and there’s a healthy lack of exposition. To be sure, there is in fact a little exposition (this IS an Asian movie, after all), but it’s not in your face like most other Korean films. If “Shiri” let you down after all of the hype, then 2009 is the film for you.
In short, this is the best Korean movie I’ve seen, and one of my favorite action movies. There have been those on the internet who complain that 2009 is too slick and overproduced. These people must learn to accept reality. The modern action movie IS a slickly-produced piece of cinema that incorporates copious slow-motion. You have Michael Bay, John Woo, and Shane Black to thank for this. Deal with it, and stop trying to be a dilettante.
Joe909’s Rating: 10/10
If looks could kill… that should have been the name of this movie. But alas, that name was already taken by a bad Richard Grieco movie. 2009 clocks in at a whopping two hours and 14 minutes, however, had they run all the slow-motion scenes at full speed, I estimate this movie would be about 37 minutes long. It’s not as though a lot didn’t happen in this movie, it’s just that they COMPLETELY overused slow-motion shots. Every time someone notices something, slow-mo. Every time someone gets shot, slow-mo. Every time there’s an exchange of the killer-look, slow-mo. It got quite old, quite fast.
The first three quarters of this movie were a super cool mystery and investigation movie taking place in the year, you guessed it, 2009. I suggest that you turn the movie off at about this point, because the rest gets very goofy and cheesy. We start out the movie seeing an attempted assassination of a Japanese politician in Korea on October 26th, 1909. A very astute Japanese soldier shoots the would-be assassin before he can fire a single bullet, but how did he know there would be an assassination? Now, in real life, the assassination was actually successful, and so we are treated to an interesting rewrite of the time-line for the opening credits. This is a timeline in which the United States and Japan are allies in WWII, and the war ends with the dropping of an Atomic Bomb on Berlin in 1945. We see other changes to our timeline until we get to the year 2009 and find out that Japan still occupies Korea and considers its citizens second-class. This all adds up to make for a very interesting setting.
Our two leads are Masayuki Sakamoto (Jang Dong-kun [Friend]), a Korean who has earned the respect of his Japanese peers, and Shojiro Saigo (Toru Nakamura [Gen-X Cops]), best friends and partners in the JBI (Japanese Bureau of Investigation). They are investigating a shootout in which the Hureisenjin, a Korean freedom fighting “army”, have taken hostages, but which ended with all the “terrorists” dead. The investigation leads to some interesting finds until it all comes to a head near the end. This is really all that’s important to know about the plot.
The action scenes are ok, for the first 3/4 of the movie, but once they JBI attack the Hureisenjin hideout, it gets completely over-the-top with the cheese. I counted at least 4 times in this scene alone in which a character must charge and tackle another out of the way of incoming gunfire, all in slow-motion, of course. There was a seriously hokey story element introduced at this point, very nearly 2 hours into the movie, which really took away from rest of the movie. The coolest scene, however, comes just about at the end of the movie in a bamboo forest, which is very stylish and very well done.
The interaction between Sakamoto and Saigo is really what makes this movie any good at all. They start out being best friends, then are split because of their cultural differences, and are forced to become enemies. The acting, aside from the distraction of the slow-motion, was really good. Of special note was Toru Nakamura who just oozes cool the whole way through this movie, especially once he and Sakamoto become enemies.
2009 was fairly enjoyable, but there was a lot wrong with it. I’d like to be able to recommend this movie, but it just crawled at times with all the slow-mo. Watch it if you love sci-fi and action movies, but not if you just want a cool, quick action movie.
Equinox21’s Rating: 6.5/10
I guess it’s sort of appropriate that I watched a movie about a country’s independence and liberation on the eve of the 4th of July.
But did it have to be so fucking boring?
There’s a scene of a man crawling in slow motion. Soldiers stand at attention in slow motion. A door opens in slow motion. We get a shot of a man sleeping in slow motion. Many people turn around… in slow motion. There are countless scenes of people staring at each other in slow motion. A man gets his wound bandaged in, you guessed it, SLOW MOTION.
If I had the power to go back in time to change the course of history, I’d travel to 2002 and infiltrate the movie studio responsible for this film and shoot the guy responsible for all the slo-mo.
It’s that fucking irritating.
Other things that I wish were lost from MY memory (spoilers ahead, y’all!):
– Japanese Bureau of Investigation agent Sakamoto and his partner, armed with handguns, decimate 20+ body-armor clad baddies with machine guns, and survive with nary a scratch.
– Sakamoto, standing in the open and armed with a submachine gun, wipes out dozens of heavily armored, heavily armed SWAT-types.
– Our protagonists somehow infiltrate a heavily guarded ship without being detected, despite said ship’s ramp being pulled away from the dock.
– The container holding the key to time travel–the most significant and valuable object OF ALL TIME–is left unguarded.
– Despite being handcuffed, surrounded and pursued by dozens of cops with GUNS mere yards away from him in POLICE HEADQUARTERS, Sakamoto escapes.
To summarize: 2009: Lost Memories is boring and stupid.
One bright spot: There are a few shout-outs to other films throughout, including the “I’ve got a bad feeling about this” line from Star Wars; the Tony Montana-with-M16 scene from Scarface; and a couple shots obviously lifted (hopefully in homage) from John Woo’s The Killer.
Alexander’s Rating: 5.5/10