City of ViolenceWith such a blunt title and an unambiguous Sin City-esque cover, it’s not particularly hard to guess what the central focus of City of Violence, the new Dragon Dynasty release, might be. Hint: it’s not about pacifism.

Writer, director, producer, and star Seung-wan Ryoo was interested in exploring the action genre and that’s exactly what he’s done here. And with co-star Doo-hong Jung, the acknowledged creator of “Koreanized” action, also working as the martial arts director on the film, it’s no surprise that the rough and tumble streets of Onsung (the titular city) come to life so vividly.

There’s really not much plot going on here, though, and what little there is seems to dwindle away with each fight scene that takes place. Perhaps a good deal of the story is lost in translation or, and this is more likely, perhaps in a movie called City of Violence, it’s really just not that important. There’s some reminiscing about the old days (namely a huge imaginatively choreographed and filmed free-for-all teenage fight in 1987), and some character tidbits dropped about the relationship between brothers and friends, but overall the violence has little to hang it’s spinning face-kick on. But when it comes to street fights with break-dancing teens and baseball teams, who needs plot, right? Right?

Here’s the basic story: Tae-su (Jung), a hard-nosed Seoul detective, returns to Onsung for his friend Wang-jae’s funeral. Meeting up with old friends, including Wang-jae’s younger brother Seok-hwan (Ryoo) at the funeral, Tae-su begins to suspect (for no ostensible reason) that something is amiss in his hometown and that Wang-jae’s death wasn’t simply due to rampant teenage violence. As Tae-su and Seok-hwan begin investigating (which in layman’s terms means getting into as many fights as possible) they uncover a corruption scandal involving one of their old friends. Of course, this leaves them no choice but to challenge basically everyone else in town to a showdown battle.

The fight scenes themselves, expertly choreographed by Jung, are a jarring combination of realism and comic-book outlandishness, including some of the most ambitiously populated fight scenes to hit the screen. At several points throughout the film, Tae-su and Seok-hwan are easily outnumbered 30 to 1, with all 60 of the “bad guys” appearing on screen during each take. It’s madness to watch and stunning to imagine the amount of preparation that went into each take. (The incredibly detailed behind-the-scenes featurettes on the second disc offer more than enough input on that matter). What City of Violence lacks in plot it makes up for in… well, violence. And with the popularity of Kill Bill, Sin City, and, most recently, 300, this film is sure to find an audience.

Zach’s Rating: B-
Quentin Tarantino’s Rating: A
Plot detailer’s Rating: C+

To purchase City of Violence, visit Amazon
To view the trailer, visit Youtube

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