Oh In-chun seems to experience an utterly creative phase during the latest years, since he turns up movies every few months. "The DMZ" despite its no-budget nature was one of the best, and now Oh returns with a kind of a sequel, in the same style but also quite different, both regarding the story and the narrative approach, which is more intricate.
In the near future, the two Koreas have finally come to an agreement and a peaceful unification is about to take place. Therefore, the DMZ area near Panmunjom (JSA) will be designated as a Special Peaceful Zone (a.k.a SPZ) in the unification of the Korean Commonwealth. However, just before the agreement takes effect, a murder takes place in the DMZ, and the suspect is a North Korean deserter, who is only known with his codename, Firefox. Both countries secretly prepare for a joint operation to remove him, each selecting its best female soldiers for the task. A North Korean filmmaker along with her cinematographer, join the operation in order to film the whole thing. Soon, however, the mission becomes even more dangerous than everyone thought, and a number of secrets are revealed.
Oh In-chun implements the documentary/stage play/thriller aesthetics of the original, in order to present a film that soars in agony and benefits the most by its minimalist approach and the duration, which, this time, is barely over the 70 minutes. The narrative approach, which begins with an interrogation of the sole survivor and a bloody outcome only to present what actually happened in flashbacks, also works quite well, retaining the interest for the whole of the movie's duration, along with a number of plot twists.
The action is quite well shot, despite the low budget of the production, with the scenes with the guns being adequate, and the ones with the knives and the one-on-one between two women, utterly impressive in their brutality. The combination of the aforementioned elements and the b-movie script induces the film with cult/exploitation aesthetics that also add to the entertainment it offers.
Probably the best asset of the narrative, however, is the way Oh implements humor, particularly through the breaking of the fourth wall concept regarding cinema and his own films, in a number of scenes. Comments like the propaganda film screening in Karlovy Vary, the woman-director "chastising" the rest of the crew for not having seen Oh In-chun's films, the constant comments regarding the way the cameraman is shooting and the use of modern equipment are hilarious, and add another level in the film, somewhere between the comic and the surrealistic.
The female parts are quite good, with Yoon Joo and Lee Kyung-mi-II being in complete resonance with the movie's aesthetics. The one who stands out, however, is Joo Min-ha as the director, with a nuanced and multi-depth performance that has her changing behaviors and acting style a number of times, with equal artistry.
"DMZ: RELOAD" is a very entertaining spectacle that will satisfy both fans of thrillers and exploitation/cult films, while it highlights, once more, Oh In-chun's ability to shoot good films with miniscule budgets.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Hancinema Film Review] "DMZ: Reload""
by HanCinema is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported License.
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