The hand-to-hand combat choreography, designed by Ryoo's longtime collaborator Jeong Doo-hong and Seoul Action School, actually works better when it is essentially two people smashing each other with various kitchen implements and office tools in a narrow apartment corridor.In the end, exciting and beautifully rendered as they are, I cannot help wonder if the movie really needed these head-spinning action set pieces.Looking ahead to the rest of 2013, the one massive project on the horizon is Bong Joon-ho's SF epic Snowpiercer, expected to reach theaters in August. Pyo begins to suspect his estranged wife Ryeon Jeong-hee (Jeon Ji-hyun, a.k.a. Meanwhile the Northern headquarters is sending Dong Myung-soo (Ryoo Seung-beom, Perfect Number), a sadistic interrogator and cold-blooded assassin, to clean up the mess.Although shot mostly in English with an international cast, it was produced in Korea, and is the source of much anticipation. The Berlin File was one of 2013's biggest domestic hits (7.4 million tickets sold), not to mention the most financially successful film directed by the perennially under-appreciated Ryoo Seung-wan (The Unjust).And as usual, Ryoo Seung-beom is fantastic as a sadistic, leering North Korean assassin, who perfectly captures the mock-suave panache of a European-boarding-school-educated, jet set kid easing into a life of immediate (material) gratification and criminal activities.Indeed, Ryoo's Dong Myung-soo seems to be the perfect embodiment of the quasi-anarchic, utterly ruthless pursuit of power that seems to be the true credo of the North Korean rulers, beneath their Communist or nationalist flag-waving. Be my guest: give Comrade Dong a hug, why don't you? old dog (John Keogh) is visibly clunky, what with the former's bizarre, hiya-ol'-buddy English diction (in contrast, Ryoo Seung-beom's mannered, ersatz-Middle-European-accented "Konglish" fits his character perfectly).Instead, the film works best when Ryoo focuses on the intolerable paranoia and distrust that poison and undermine the integrity of North Korean characters.Here, his casting of Ha Jung-woo and Jeon Ji-hyun is excellent.
Neither do, despite the crowd-pleasing presence of Han Suk-kyu, Southern agents play a significant role in The Berlin File.Theatrical admissions for local films in the first quarter of 2013 were the highest of any three-month period in Korean film history, thanks to hits like Ryoo Seung-wan's The Berlin File, gangster epic New World and especially the sentimental comic drama Miracle in Cell No. The latter film, featuring an ensemble cast led by RYU Seung-ryong, became the third best-selling Korean film in history with close to 13 million admissions.Another film that drew much notice was the low-budget feature Jiseul, about 1948 massacre of civilians on the island of Jeju.Shot in Jeju dialect, the exquisitely crafted film won the top prize in the World Dramatic Cinema competition at Sundance before opening in Korea in March.Positive word-of-mouth then helped the film to achieve a level of publicity and box office success almost unheard of for independent films.