By Lee Hyo-won
Korean actresses should be enjoying a nice long vacation on exotic beaches this summer — as male stars unabashedly show off their macho side onscreen there seems to be little room for the ladies.
The alpha male, as depicted through recent Korean cinema, has been reverting to a more primitive, sticks and stones standard — the survival of the fittest is measured by a man's ability to not only outwit an opponent in messy mind games but more importantly unleash killer instincts to endure no-cut skirmishes.
"Major studios are producing super violent films starring superstars. They're trying to feed the audience's appetite for something different, and it seems to be working. Director Kang Woo-seok
, for example, has produced something really different from his previous works, and it is catching people's attention", said a researcher at the Korean Film Council.
features a heavy bevy of men including Jung Jae-young
disguised as a grandpa engaged in acts of all sorts of physical and spiritual violence. It has attracted over 3 million viewers while "Inception", reigned by tough guys Leonardo Dicaprio and Ken Watanabe, continue to draw packed screenings. Won Bin
has contributed to the scene as a knife-wielding madman in "The Man From Nowhere
", which has brought in an audience of more than 1.5 million in just nine days as of Thursday. With the high online reservation rate the hardboiled action flick is expected to continue topping the box office.
Actresses thus should prepare more tanning lotion, since the testosterone tsunami is expected to make waves for the meantime.
"I Saw the Devil
" was finally released in theaters Thursday after controversial rounds with the Korea Media Ratings Board for its explicit content.
Hallyu star Lee Byung-hun
("G.I. Joe") plays a National Intelligence Service agent who becomes lustful for vengeance after he loses his beloved fiancée to an evil serial killer, played by "Old Boy"
star Choi Min-sik
As of late, the spotlight in Korean cinema has shifted from beautiful male-female duos playing lovebirds to odd pairings of clashing male co-stars. The curious chemistry between a heartthrob and an elder veteran actor — much like hit spy flick "Secret Reunion"
, starring Gang Dong-won
and Song Kang-ho
— is enough to make headlines. In the film Lee pushes forward the drama of the narrative while Choi propels the action with his relentless and unpredictable axing and other outbursts of violence.
Coming to theaters on Aug. 26 is another film featuring skirmishes between two actors, though with a more comical twist. "Jukigo Sipeun" ("Desire To Kill
") is about two foes who end up being hospitalized in the same ward and try to destroy each other with the use of back scratchers, water vaporizers and other seemingly harmless items.
The black comedy shows how profound hatred can "inspire" two paralyzed patients; one of them, a compulsive suicide attempter, even prolongs his death wish and trains to regain his energy in order to take on his enemy. The duo are played by middle-aged household names Chun Ho-jin
and Yoo Hae-jin
, who both appear as supporting characters in "I Saw the Devil
" and "Moss"
, respectively. Yoo shines with his signature slapstick while Cheon, who has assumed more serious roles, uses his charismatic glances to comical ends.
Fans of six packs and rough action sequences can moreover look forward to watching not one but all of their favorite action heroes in one sitting. "The Expendables" brings together the big boys including Sylvester Stallone, who also directed the film, Bruce Willis, Mickey Rourke, Jet Li and the return of Dolph Lundgren, as well as more recent stars such as Jason Statham, Terry Crews, Steve Austin and Randy Couture. They play mercenaries on a mission to overthrow a South American dictator. It will open in theaters on Aug. 18.
, whose cinematography is crowned by his role as the hardball detective Kang Cheol-jung, returns to the screen as a former cop, who, framed for murder, is forced to go on the run. Though Sul is known for having braved grueling conditions on a desert island in "Silmido
" and fighting a tsunami in "Haeundae"
, he says his latest role in "Haegyeolsa" ("Troubleshooter"
) has been the toughest.
"I really wanted to quit", he told reporters during a promotional event for the film in Seoul, Wednesday. He suffered injuries and braved wire action sequences for the first time. "They said they were going to use a stuntman for a scene where my character falls from a five-story building, and I said I'd do it. But once I actually tried, I couldn't move my legs", he said. The film is slated for release around Chuseok next month.