Movie review: ‘The Yellow Sea’


Anyone feeling let down by this past summer’s action selections for their false-start franchises, comic-book over-reliance or crutch-use of unworldly CGI will be well served by finding their way to “The Yellow Sea.” The second feature from South Korean writer-director Na Hong-Jin, the film is a breakneck mix of bone-crunching freneticism and bloody close-quarters knife-fighting with a strand of romantic melancholy.

In the somewhat lawless territory where North Korea, China and Russia border one another, a cab driver is given an offer to work off a gambling debt by traveling to Seoul to kill a man. While he’s there, the cab driver also looks for his wife, who has likely left him. All this sets off a storm of violence, double-crosses and layered subterfuges that puts the cabby in well over his head but also brings out a streak of capable savvy that even he is surprised to find within himself.

As the cabby, actor Ha Jung-Woo conveys fear, confusion and emergent cool in equal measure, while as the sly small-town hoodlum with a vicious streak — he beats a guy with a half-gnawed bone, giving new meaning to raw brutality — Kim Yun-Seok portrays a bad guy oddly worth rooting for.


Na captures at once the fragility of the human body and the deep-rooted darkness of the human soul. “The Yellow Sea” is easily one of the films of the year for underserved action-heads.

“The Yellow Sea.” MPAA rating: R for brutal bloody violence, some strong sexuality, nudity and language. In Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 37 minutes. At the Regal Cinemas L.A. Live, Los Angeles, and AMC Del Toro 18, Torrance.