Film Reviews

Something Else

While the governments of the two Koreas plan symbolic gestures that could lead to a long-dreamed-of peaceful reunification, Ryu (Han Suk-Gyu) and Lee (Song Kang-Ho)--two special agents in South Korea's National Intelligence Service, which handles threats from the North--must track down a female North Korean super-assassin named Hee, whose recent resurfacing after more than a year of inactivity is almost surely related. Is she part of a deceptive North Korean strategy of talking peace while waging terrorism? Or does she represent a renegade, ultramilitaristic faction? At the same time, Ryu, only a few weeks away from marriage to fish-store owner Hyun (Kim Yun-Jin), must figure out how to tell his emotionally fragile fiancee the true nature of his work. When Shiri was released at home in 1999, writer-director Kang Je-Gyu's evenhanded treatment of North Korea was daring for a South Korean film. But the film proved even a bigger hit than competing thriller Tell Me Something (also starring Han and released here last year). As exciting and effective as Tell Me Something, but without that film's reliance on lurid gore, Shiri nonetheless suffers from many of the same flaws: The plot has a number of holes, and at times it's simply baffling. Some of the bafflement may be the result of trimming for the American release or, conversely, from inadequate retooling for America.
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Andy Klein