Nowhere to Hide
dir. Lee Myung-Se
Plays Fri-Thurs Jan 26-Feb 1 at the Varsity.

"THE STORY AND the characters are not the main focus of my film, movement is," director Lee Myung-Se says in an interview for the press kit. Having seen the film, this statement comes across as not just accurate, but a massive understatement.

On the surface, Nowhere to Hide is a detective thriller. No, strike that. On the surface, it is a movie about people getting into fights, an examination of how many different ways fight scenes can be filmed. As it turns out, there are quite a few. A master stylist, Lee mixes black-and-white with color, fists with guns, action with freeze-frames, generous doses of rain and plenty of puddles, all in order to show off his expressions of cinematic violence.

For example, early in the film there is a fight on a roof. It begins with a standoff, where the combatants line up at a distance, like gunfighters without guns, then run at each other screaming. Right away the action is cartoonish, with punches that knock people back 30 feet on their heels. During one mid-fight clutch, nondiegetic music turns it into a comical slow dance, while another part of the same bout is seen only as shadows on the wall. It's as entertaining as it is empty.

Essentially, Nowhere to Hide is a live-action version of an anime film, complete with that genre's gratuitous violence, stylized visuals, and unintelligible plotlines. Here, detectives Woo (Park Joong-Hoon) and Kim (Jang Dong-Kun) are on the trail of Sungmin (Ahn Sung-Ki). According to the press kit, they're after him for the killing of another drug lord--not that the movie really explains that. Many stakeouts and fight scenes pass before Woo and Sungmin face off for a battle, mano a mano, at the end of the film. Park in particular is terrific, with a goofy charm in his stooping gait and a hangdog expression that can bloom into a violent smile in an instant.

The true star, however, is the filmmaking. Even though it runs out of steam by the end, the movie is worth seeing for the odd purity of Lee's cinematic outbursts, not to mention some elements of style that MTV has yet to pick up on.

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