Sunday, December 20, 2009

Haeundae (2009)

There's a difference between Asian and (for example) American movies. When something terrible is gonna happen, happening and has happen people actually cry, scream, show fear, cry more and screams like they were dying. Because they are. This is of course a natural thing, but the "Asians" has a tendency to show it in movies without any problems. Haeundae, the new big budget disaster movie from South Korea, is a good example of this. 

Haeundae refers to Haeundae Beach, a big tourist area where it seem like it's more people than sand. Like a luxury version of... Pattaya or Pukhet maybe? I don't know, because I've only seen Haeundae in this movie. We follow, as usual, a couple of characters. Man-Sik (Kyung-gu Sol), who works down by the beach, the girl he's in love with, Kim Hwi (Joong-Hoon Park) is a scientist that think that South Korea is gonna be struck by a tsunami, his ex-wife and their daughter, a couple of teenagers, a lazy harbor-worker and his loving mother and so on. It's quite a big cast. When the tsunami finally hits Haeundae many of the people we learned to like and hate during the movies first hour dies, or goes through terrible ordeals... 

As I wrote above, the first hour is mainly drama. Pure classic South Korean drama with a lot of excellent actors and good dialogue. The humor is black, but people are never cynical and behaving like bastards. When disaster strikes they try to help each other, sometimes with failure as the result. Emmerich, the ruling disaster-king, always put his disasters in the beginning - probably to catch the audience before the go to sleep. The problem is that the rest of the movies becomes terrible boring, and together with a weak script it's a real movie-disaster. Director and writer Je-gyun Yun never falls into same trap. He uses his first hour well, and we get to know the characters almost to close - even if some stuff i presented to easy and written on our noses. But the good stuff more than the bad stuff.

I never seen really good visual effects in a movie from Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand and South Korea - but the last country has always been the best. The monsters in Dragon Wars is fantastic, and so are the mutation in The Host. Here they almost, but only almost, comes close to Hollywood's CG-effects. There's some amazing stuff here, which includes both computer generated water crushing the city, overturns skyscrapers like toys, sweeps hundreds, thousands of people away - to cool and realistic physical effects with waterfilled streets and a cool sequence when a girl is rescued from being flushed out through her bedroom window half the way up in a skyscraper. Another wonderful and funny sequence is bordering to big slapstick when a man tries to escape huge falling debris from a bridge he's on, ending with him lightning and cigarette and... well, you have to see it!

I've so far seen three of the last years water-related disaster movies from Asia: the crappy Thai-movie Tsunami 2022, the okey propaganda movie Super Typhoon from mainland China and now South Korea's Haeundae - and the last one is also the best with great acting, spectacular disaster-scenes, lots of strong emotions and a form of realism that none of the above movies even comes close to.

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