Korean director Jeong-beom Lee created a modern masterpiece with his 2010 film The Man From Nowhere. Unlike other revenge oriented thrillers like Taken that features one pointless action scene after another, The Man From Nowhere featured three-dimensional characters and real development for the audience to related to. There were of course glorious action sequences, gunplay and knife fights, but Lee was careful not to overshadow the importance of the characters.
With his newest film, No Tears for the Dead, it unfortunately seems that director Lee has gone back a couple of steps. He still understands that we need to get acquainted with the characters of the story, its just that the characters' arcs and portrayals aren't nearly as interesting or as well developed here compared to his previous film.
Gon is a Korean hitman raised in America. Working for the mob, he botches up his latest assignment when he accidently kills a young Korean girl. Riddled with guilt, Gon climbs into a bottle looking to forget his mistake. His boss however has other plans, as he tells Gon he must now journey to Korea to assassinate the mother of the girl he killed. When he gets there Gon is unable to pull the trigger, and instead of killing the woman, he becomes her protector.
No Tears For the Dead starts off well enough with a neat little gun fight and a horrible plot twist, as our "hero" kills a little girl. But from then on it gets sporadic. The movie spends the next forty-five minutes focusing on the grieving mother, who's life's details aren't really all that interesting. Lee spends so much of the movie setting up the woman's story that we start to lose sight of the hitman's internal conflict. Gon, the sympathetic hitman, is pretty much a one note character here. There are flash backs showing his messed up childhood, but they don't really hit home to give Gon a fully fleshed out persona.
If the first half is bogged down by character setups that don't really work, the second half of Lee's film is a nonstop, high-octane action ride with one shoot 'em up scene after another. Machine guns, shot-guns and explosives are all involved, culminating in a standoff in a skyscraper that is actually reminiscent of 1988's action classic Die Hard. The action scenes are well put together, choreography wise I should say. However the second and almost all of the third act is one giant action scene. All of the "character development" that Lee spent so much time putting together in the first act is thrown out the window for big, bombastic carnage and mayhem. Hey I'm not complaining, but it doesn't really help a film when you don't feel anything for the characters in the first place.
Is No Tears For the Dead a bad movie? No, I've seen countless films that have sucked harder than this, (I watched the Ridiculous 6 last week and that's two hours of my life I'm never getting back). But after watching The Man From Nowhere, I hold director Jeong-beom Lee in a different light than most. I expected his talent here as writer and director to really carry this film, and while its not a total dud, I was expecting so much more with this movie.
Apartment Shoot Out Scene
Recommended if you like actions, thrillers, The Man From Nowhere, Die Hard, Knife fights, explosions, that Korean actor with the jewels stuck in his face from Die Another Day, plots with good ideas that aren't well executed.
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