Written and Directed by Jeong Yun-su
Starring Kim Seung-woo, Choi Min-su, Kim Yun-jin, & Kim Seon-ah
- Making-of featurette
- Cast and crew interviews
- Movie “highlight” reel
Released by: ADV Films
My Advice: Worth a purchase if you’re a fan of action flicks, and a rental if you’re a little less enthusiastic about gunplay.
Set somewhere around 2020 AD, Yesterday is the story of a reunified Korea, suddenly plagued by a spate of brutal murders of top scientists. Whoever is performing the killings is a highly-skilled paramilitary operative, familiar with government protocols and a wide array of military hardware. As the police dig deeper into the mystery, evidence of a secret government project and subsequent cover-up comes to light, and suddenly the cops are looking for a team of crack government-trained secret operatives instead of a serial killer.
[ad#longpost]The story is, at bottom, a cautionary tale about cloning and genetic experimentation for military purposes. It’s a story that’s been told before, to be sure, but one that makes a decent trope for a near-future sci-fi actioner. It also allows for that most important factor in a solid action shoot-’em-up: a somewhat sympathetic bad guy. In this case, the villain is one “Goliath,” a cast-off leftover from the intensive military research program to create the ultimate obedient killing machine. Of course, he’s more than a little bitter at being abandoned when the project ended, and seeks to dole out some vengeance on those that he feels have wronged him. This usually involves high explosives and some serious lead poisoning. He’s also gathered a handful of similarly bitter cast-offs to support his cause and help him orchestrate his incredibly elaborate ambushes and assaults.
As with many action flicks, the story takes a bit of a back seat to the guns-blazing action sequences, and Yesterday is no exception. The writing is just tight enough to keep things moving, but not polished enough to rise above the genre. The acting is actually pretty wooden, but all the major players are good enough to keep you watching even if the performances are a little flat (the English dub actually helps in this case, as I think the voice actors are actually possessed of greater range and talent than the movie’s live cast).
So, how does the film’s signature stuff hold up? How good is the action? In a word, spectacular. Director Jeong Yun-Su has a real talent for action set pieces, and the cinematography goes a long way towards enhancing the immersiveness of the action scenes. When the bullets start flying and the explosions start popping, you really feel like you’re right in the middle of the pulse-pounding life-or-death mayhem. In part, this is because the film actually brings forward one of the most often ignored aspects of a firefight: noise. The sound levels aren’t mixed down to keep gunfire from drowning out lines. Instead, during the shooting sequences, the characters can barely hear themselves think, and communication with each other is pretty much impossible. This is, of course, part of Goliath’s master plan in most instances, and the ambushes are as effective for the sense of chaos they create as for any particular tactical detail.
The honor of most notable action sequence in the film goes to the abandoned warehouse/slum shootout, wherein a dozen or so cops get pinned down and blasted by a much smaller force of Goliath’s troops. It’s an extended firefight, and there’s no shortage of serious hardware on display. I’d wager a healthy chunk of the prop and effects budget gets burned in this fifteen-minute sequence, but it’s worth every penny.
The DVD is relatively loaded for an Asian action movie import. We get making of featurettes, interviews with cast and crew, some trailers, and a “highlight” reel of great action moments from the film. While I’m not sure what value the highlight reel really adds to the package, the making-of feature and the interviews with the cast and crew are excellent and very informative. It really drives home that the Korean film industry is trying to reinvent itself as a global player, and all of those involved with this film have hitched their wagon to that particular idea wholeheartedly.
Following so close on the heels of Shiri, this movie makes it plain that the Koreans are no longer content to play third or fourth-best in the Asian film scene, and they’re making a bid to challenge Hong Kong as the shoot-’em-up capital of the world. They’ve got a long way to go yet, but the potential is definitely there. I expect big things out of the Korean action market over the next few years, and you should, too.