Typhoon (2005) Review

"Typhoon" Korean Theatrical Poster

"Typhoon" Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Gwak Gyeong-Taek
Writer: Gwak Gyeong-Taek
Producer: Park Seong-Geun, Yang Jung-Gyeong
Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Lee Jeong-Jae, Lee Mi-Yeon, David McInnis, Wook Heo, David No, Chatthapong Pantanaunkul
Running Time: 124 min.

By HKFanatic

From the opening of Typhoon, it’s clear that Korea is screwed. A rogue pirate named Sin (Dong-gun Jang) with a grudge against both the North and the South has amassed some weapons-grade plutonium. His big plan is to release it during a typhoon, when the high velocity winds will spread it across the entire island. Fortunately, some stern-looking military generals in the South declare, “I know just the man for the job.” Smash cut to: our South Korean alpha-male Navy officer hero playing shirtless football on the beach with a bunch of his military buds.

Yup, it’s that kind of movie. South Korea attempts to mimic Hollywood with this slick, expensive blockbuster whose protagonist, played by Jung-Jae Lee, seems like the country’s answer to Keanu Reeves. But Typhoon is not as empty-headed as your typical Michael Bay flick.

That is, there’s some genuine drama to be found. The villain’s only living relative is his long-lost sister, who also happens to be a drug addict. Our hero locates her and tries to use her to bargain with Sin. In the process he develops something like affection for her and respect for Sin. He slowly realizes that the only thing separating him from the pirate is chance or fate; the Navy officer feels just as strongly about protecting his country as Sin does destroying it.

At 124 minutes, Typhoon takes plenty of time to develop its story and lay out some action sequences. There’s nothing mind-blowing but a car chase about halfway through the movie is a sure highlight, with Jung-Jae Lee running out of a hotel lobby and firing his gun at the fleeing bad guys in slow-motion like a bad-ass. Later there’s a tense shoot-out in a tiny cottage, with the good guys in the sights of a crackpot sniper. The climax of the film sees the Korean Navy undergo a daring operation in the heart of the typhoon. The hand-to-hand combat is your standard Hollywood fare, nothing to write home about, but this finale has enough of that ‘explosions on a rain-swept barge that could capsize at any moment’ feel to it to keep your adrenaline going.

Oddly enough, Dong-gun Jang seems like the bigger star of this production, seeing as how he gets top billing in the credits and is featured most prominently on the movie posters. The screenplay goes to great lengths to establish his character as a wounded and sympathetic villain, despite the fact that he plans to murder millions of people. While Dong-gun Jang gives a solid performance and I appreciate the film’s attempts to give us a more three-dimensional antagonist, when I watch an action movie I really just want to see the hero kick the bad guy’s ass without remorse.

There’s not quite enough of that vibe in Typhoon, but it’s a solidly entertaining flick. It tries to imitate your typical Hollywood blockbuster with some degree of success. Still, I think if there’s anything South Korean films have taught us lately, it’s that they’re at their best when they’re making the movies that Hollywood won’t.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 6/10

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