Another Public Enemy (US - DVD R1)
Gabe watches another Asian crime drama, and writes another review...
Unfortunately, this Korean prosecution thriller has nothing to do with the seminal works of Hip-Hop's legendary politically minded super group, or the downfall of back-up rapper Flava Flav (remember when he was part of one of the most important musical acts of all time, not just the star of increasingly awful reality shows?). The plot revolves around the best damn Prosecutor, Cheol-jung Kang and his adventures in making the bad guys pay. This time around (the film is a sequel) Kang attempts to bring down a corrupt brat of an overlord named Sang-woo Han, who is trafficking his family’s money to the United States in the guise of a golf resort.
Han, in true horrible asshole form is even willing to off his own brother, but his real evil is in the disrespect he shows the middle and lower classes. Only a real jerk could see himself as superior to working slobs the world over. Kang has got to take him down, on principle if nothing else, and he's willing to risk his career (which he doesn't really seem to like all that much anyway) to see Han rot in a jail cell for the rest of his natural life. We're with you Prosecutor Kang!
It's more fun to watch a bad movie than it is to watch a mediocre one. The spite and anger one experiences while feeling ripped off by utter garbage is actually preferable to the apathy of finding oneself not really caring either way. Another Public Enemy is probably the most average Asian action/crime/drama I've had the hypomnesiatic pleasure of viewing since the vanilla adventures of The Heroic Duo (sorry Tartan, you guys are a great studio, these movies just aren't). Nothing interesting happens for hours, but the filmmakers are just talented enough to keep one from passing out.
The direction and cinematography are actually pretty good, as is the character dialogue, and some of the actors are downright outstanding. It's a pity none of these talented people have an interesting or original plot to work with. The film, which is the sequel to another film I know nothing about, plays more like a three part episode of a weekly TV series than a movie. I'm pretty sure I'm suppose to already have some attachment to these characters going into the story, thus making the hurdles they have to surmount more dramatic, but the truth is that despite the solid acting, and interesting quirks, I just didn't care what happened to them.
The movie starts with a bang, tracing the early relationship of the lead pro and antagonist, who attended school together. The youths are involved in epic school rivalry fistfights, set to rock music, and shot like a commercial. I thought I was in for an over the top, semi-surrealistic romp, especially when the proceeding introduction to our hero had him sitting in his car and practicing smiling exercises to an instructional audio tape. Once the characters are set, however, nothing really happens four about an hour, which accounts for the film's two hour and twenty minute running time. Simply said, this is far too derivative material to be harping on for this amount of time.
The surprises are few and far between. Each twist in the plot has already been bled dry by countless American TV shows like Law and Order, and its millions of follow-up incarnations. When an unforeseen event finally occurs at about the halfway mark, the plot has lost far too much momentum for anyone other than series fans to really get excited. Even the later action sequences feel painfully truncated, especially considering how well done some of them are.
The most interesting thing about the film is its supposed popularity in its native South Korea. The base plot is very much a salaryman's wet dream, an oversimplification of the class struggle told in comic book terms. This may speak volumes for the political beliefs of the average South Korean, a culture I know very little about. Films like this, where the little guy triumphs over the ridiculously evil rich man use to be a dime a dozen here in the US. If only Another Public Enemy would've had some pace to it, it could've been a rollicking, get up and cheer when the rich man gets it, because deep down we want to think bad things about people who have more than us kind of flick. I suppose the genre should probably have a shorter name when I get around to patenting it.
"A get get up, a get get down/ 911's a joke in your town."
New movies usually make for good-looking DVDs, and Another Public Enemy is no exception. Colours are rich and vibrant. There isn't any grain, dirt, or artefacting of any kind to be found. Detail levels are high, which creates the transfer's only real problem—edge enhancement. Sometimes edge enhancement can be a bit of a burden, but the error comes and goes, and never hurts the film profoundly. Tartan USA has really been doing a bang up job on transfers lately (though the film's I've been watching from them are all pretty new in vintage), putting the companies early UK muck-ups far enough out of memory to re-establish a genuine degree of trust.
"Bass—how low can you go?"
Another Public Enemy, as I've stated in my film review, isn't exactly the most exciting experience, a fact on display in the modest DTS and Dolby Digital 5.1 surround tracks. When something actually happens the soundtrack is warm and deep enough. The car crashes have particular punch to them. I noticed no distortion of sync issues, and the majority of the surround effects work as they're suppose to. The music can be abrasive at times, but this is more due to its clichéd nature. When something dramatic happens the sound swells, when action occurs techno-rock is cued up, all the obvious marks of a composer who either doesn’t care, or isn't very interesting.
One of the hardest things to do as a DVD reviewer is sit through a commentary track when you didn't like watching an overlong film very much the first time. Occasionally a commentary will be more entertaining than the film, and the track on Another Public Enemy starts out strongly. The track features director Woo-Suk Kang (when I make a movie, I'm going to name the hero after myself too) and the two leads. The titbits don't fly too fast, but are consistent, and for the most part interesting. Remember how I said something about the flashback opening feeling like it came out of another film? Well, it turns out it was directed by another director, and wasn't exactly what Woo-Suk wanted. Unfortunately the players seem to run out of steam about half way through the film, and the commentary track falls all but silent.
The behind the scenes footage is fly-on-the-wall type stuff, mixed with brief interviews with the actors where they explain their character's motivations. Good stuff for fans, but pretty dull if you weren't to into the flick to begin with. The separate making of dedicated to the all too brief car crash is slightly more engaging, but smells suspiciously of EPK material. The features are finished off with the usual random selection of Tartan Asia Extreme releases, though why this particular film counts as 'Extreme' is beyond me.
"I can't do nuthin' for you man."
Another Public Enemy is a passable chapter in the popular series. Perhaps if I'd seen the original Public Enemy I'd appreciate the sequel a bit more, but the plot is definitely stand-alone. There are some great performances here, though. Basically it comes down to the film's epic length, if you can sit through it without pausing to take a break, you're ahead of me, and this may be your cup of tea. The DVD is pretty nice, with a bright (maybe too bright) transfer, an above average soundtrack, and some decent special features. Tartan does another good job with a film of questionable quality.
Review by Gabriel Powers
Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian
Release Date: 28th March 2006
Disc Type: Single side, dual layer
Audio: Dolby Digital 5.1 Korean, DTS 5.1 Korean
Extras: Commentary with Director and Cast, 'The Making of Another Public Enemy' Featurette, Behind-the-Scenes: Car Crash, Original Theatrical Trailers
Easter Egg: No
Director: Woo-Suk Kang
Cast: Kyung-gu Sol, Jun-ho Jeong, Shin-il Kang, Geun-hyeong Park, Hie-bong Byeon
Length: 143 minutes
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