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Open City
Open City

Son Ye-Jin and Kim Myung-Min get it on in Open City.
Korean: 무방비 도시
Year: 2008  

Lee Sang-Gi


Lee Sang-Gi


Kim Myung-Min, Son Ye-Jin, Kim Hae-Sook, Son Byung-Ho, Shim Ji-Ho, Yoon Yoo-Seon, Kim Byung-Ok, Ji Dae-Han, Do Gi-Suk, Park Sung-Min

  The Skinny: This aspiring action film noir has an interesting concept and a potentially breakthrough performance by Son Ye-Jin, but the overwrought family melodrama makes this another missed opportunity.
Kevin Ma:

Korean Cinema's fixation with parental relationships continues with Open City. On the surface, this aspiring erotic thriller comes with a fresh concept about a showdown between an international pickpocket ring and determined Seoul police. However, Open City is the already the third Korean film released in January 2008 that has parental relationships as a central theme. The parental relationship here involves police officer Dae-Yung (Kim Myung-Min), a tough guy who's good with his baton. However, he refuses to take on pickpocket cases - an avoidance that can be attributed to his mother Man-Ok (Kim Hae-Sook), a veteran pickpocket who abandoned her children after being sent away to jail.

Getting in between them is Jang-Mi (Son Ye-Jin, A Moment to Remember), the head of an international pickpocket ring who is first seen pulling off a daring heist in a crowded Japanese train station. She's so ruthless when it comes to her job that her men will slash anyone who tries to stop them. After that job, she returns to Seoul to build a new team. She tries to recruit Man-Ok, her old prison buddy, to join the new team. However, she refuses, hoping to redeem herself in the eyes of her children. Meanwhile, Dae-Yung is assigned to track down Jang-Mi's group of pickpockets, and he gets dangerously close to Jang-Mi, not knowing that she's the head of the very group of criminals that he's after.

Jang-Mi owns a high-class tattoo parlor - which covers up her real day job, and gives Son the perfect chance to "show off" her tattoos. That's where the so-called “erotic” part of this "erotic thriller" comes in. Open City is touted as Son's big acting leap, playing a femme fatale who draws Dae-Yung deeper into the criminal world through seduction. While Son is a beautiful actress who has proven her acting talent in more innocent roles, writer/director Lee Sang-Gi gives her character too many shades of gray. Jang-Mi is supposed to be a sympathetic woman - a big-time criminal with a conscience - but she fails to be neither convincing nor intriguing as a femme fatale. In fact, unlike most femme fatales, Jang-Mi seems to be only seducing Dae=Yung for seduction's sake, as her success or failure has little effect on the plot.

Again, part of the blame goes to the script's obsession with parental relationships. While the themes of redemption and past traumas are an effective device for building layered characters, Open City's script is eventually weighed down by its themes. As the fractured relationship between Dae-Yung and Man-Ok continues to develop, the central pickpocket plot gradually gets pushed to the background. In the end, the original concept gives way to family melodrama - an easy way out for the filmmakers to create an emotional connection.

The pickpocket scenes sometimes stretch credibility (slashing someone on the wrist shouldn't have the same effect as firing a gun in the air), but Lee does earn points for showing the dangers of both pickpocketing and being pickpocketed. The writer/director shows not only the potential violence of this rarely explored criminal underworld, but also the consequences on the victims. Lee takes care to show audiences the interesting techniques that pickpockets use, such as using a tiny blade to slice open pockets while someone creates a distraction.

Also, Lee shows the ability to direct hard-boiled action, which can be seen in Dae-Yung's introduction, an arrest scene that turns into a group brawl. Even Son Ye-Jin should get some credit for stepping out of her comfort zone as a potentially menacing villain - and for changing costumes more often than an award show host. However, the film's later action gets nowhere close to matching the intensity of the opening scene, and once again, the family melodrama drags the whole film down. Ultimately, audiences are likely to leave Open City talking more about what the movie could've been rather than what the movie was. Lee brings in the right elements, but he needs to go back and study up on his film noir. (Kevin Ma 2008)


DVD (Korea)
Region 3 NTSC
Fantom Entertainment
2-disc Special Edition
16x9 Anamorphic Widescreen
Korean Language Track
Dolby Digital 5.1/DTS 5.1
Removable English and Korean Subtitles
Various Extras


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