No Blood No Tears (2002) Review

"No Blood No Tears" Korean Theatrical Poster

“No Blood No Tears” Korean Theatrical Poster

AKA: Neither Bloods Nor Tears
Director: Ryoo Seung-wan
Writer: Ryoo Seung-wan, Jeong Jin-Wan
Cast: Jun Do-Yeon, Lee Hye-Yeong, Jung Jae-Young
Running Time: 116 min.

By Dragon Ma

I managed to watch this last night and and it came as complete surprise, I’d heard good things about this film, although mostly people compared it to films like ‘Snatch’ and ‘Pulp Fiction’. The film definitely retains the same style as ‘Snatch’ but somehow weaves it’s own charm. For those who haven’t seen it I’ll lay it out for you:

Kyong-Son is an ex-female gangster, all washed up and left driving a taxi after being left high and dry by her ex-husband, she’s also saddled with the debt he owes to some gangsters. Soo-Jin wants to be a singer in Japan but she’s stuck with an abusive boyfriend who regularly beats her when he either gets drunk or just generally feels like it. Soo-Jin and Kyong-Son meet after crashing in a street. Soo-Jin’s boyfriend runs an illegal dogfight ring but he has plans to make a big score with an a boxing match. Soo-Jin decides to rip him and enlists Kyong-son to help her.

Now there’s more but the story jumps around a lot and there are many characters but each character plays a role, there are no throwaway characters in this film. This film exudes style like there’s no tomorrow, it makes no apologies for it’s roots in pulp noir. The one thing that did jump out at me was the level of violence in this film, there’s no cartoon violence here, it’s real and it’s brutal. There’s a fight at the end involving both women a guy and it’s almost painful to watch because really get hit HARD, they don’t simply get slapped, they get majorly f***** up. I have to give it up for both of the lead actresses in this film, they’re both superb, Lee Hye Young for her world weariness and toughness. Jeon do Heong as Soo-Jin takes what seems like a shallow role and turns it into something of substance.

I won’t say this film is perfect, some of the fight scenes are choppy and it’s very difficult to tell what’s going on. It does move at a slow pace and it’s relentlessly brutal. Sometimes it does look like the director was showing off with slow motion shots and computer effects to enhance some of the fight scenes. All this is fairly minor and it’s still a fun little film despite how brutal it can be.

I also have to say this film has one of the best badasses I’ve seen in awhile. He doesn’t have a word of dialogue but he’s the best Jet Li style badass I’ve seen in ages, he even wears a tunic like Jet did in FOL. He’s played by Jung Du Hong who also did stuntwork/fight choreography for Musa and he’s THE premiere korean fight choreographer. After seeing his work here, I’m impressed, he seems to favor impact and realism rather than making it look pretty. He kicks major ass in this film.

That said, it’s a great little crime film, there are plenty of twists that aren’t telegraphed and the two women are great, what more could you want.

Dragon Ma’s Rating: 9/10

By Equinox21

A less appropriate name for a movie I have never heard. Not that this is the bloodiest movie made, far from it, just that every character bleeds somehow at some point in this movie. Perhaps they should have just called it No Tears, but that just wouldn’t have sounded as cool. And “cool” is a word that really does describe NBNT. I award an A- for style to this one, losing a bit for the fight between Dok-Bul (Jae-yeong Jeong [the guy who plays the ultra-cool sniper in Guns & Talks to damn near perfection]) and the Silent Man (Doo-hong Jung). The fight wasn’t bad, except that a good part of it was shot far too close up and edited too choppy, too Hollywood, so that you couldn’t see all that was going on. This was minor, as most of the rest of the fights (and there were plenty of them) were superbly choreographed and looked amazing. Don’t get me wrong, this is not a martial arts film (though there were elements of martial arts in some of the fights as Doo-hong Jung is a martial artist who did the martial arts direction for Musa); the fighting more resembled Fight Club than anything. The style element also comes from a very strong “Ritchie-esque” story. Think Snatch, without the comedy but with all the style.

The story is really about two women, Su-ji (Do-yeon Jeon) and Kyeong-seon (Hye-yeong Lee), who meet by accident (literally, a car accident), who end up working together to steal money from Su-Ji’s abusive boyfriend. There’s more than enough lying, cheating, backstabbing and good, old fashioned violence to keep everyone interested. Like any good movie, there are no real “bad guys” or “good guys”, only shades of gray. Everyone in the movie has a sordid past and their own motives for their actions. Plus there’s a nice catfight, which is never a bad thing.

No Blood No Tears, despite the highly misleading title, is a very cool movie. I’d recommend it to anyone who liked Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance or Snatch.

Equinox21’s Rating: 8/10

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