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'No Tears for the Dead' sheds blood at story's expense

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In "No Tears for the Dead," so much blood is shed — by so many — over one little flash drive that you'd think world dominance was at stake instead of a load of ill-gotten cash. But that's the way this hectic Korean crime drama rolls in the hands of writer-director Lee Jung-beom.

The film's many violent action scenes are quite well, er, executed. But there's a far more emotional and profound story here to be told, one that becomes largely eclipsed by the mayhem.

At the epicenter of it all is Gon (Jang Dong-gun), a Korean-born, American-raised hit man who accidentally kills a little girl while taking out some bad guys in Los Angeles. He's then sent to Seoul to murder the child's grieving mother, Mogyeong (Kim Min-hee), a risk manager at a large financial concern. Meanwhile, all that the ethically conflicted Gon really wants to do is retire. No such luck.

Once back in South Korea, Gon lands in the web of a deadly conspiracy as a jumble of factions vie for the elusive flash drive that holds the key to a fortune connected to the Triad organized crime group. As the ante rises on Mogyeong, the guilt-ridden Gon realizes that he can't murder her. In fact, he must spare her — at his own peril.

Although Gon is a potentially memorable tragic character, his depth and dimensionality take a hit amid the film's second-half jam of carnage and double-crosses.

Jung-beom's attempt to deepen Gon via flashbacks to his fraught childhood never creates the kind of rich foundation that's clearly intended. Only an unpredictable, late-breaking twist shows some real storytelling chops.

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"No Tears for the Dead"

MPAA rating; None. In English and Korean with English subtitles.

Running time: 1 hour, 53 minutes.

Playing: At CGV Cinemas, Los Angeles; Regal's La Habra Stadium 16.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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