Sunday, December 02, 2018


There was only a handful of us in the theater for this movie on a Saturday night with no major studio movies opening for the weekend, which is a darn shame - it's basic B-movie action that's just the right amount aware of how ridiculous it is, the sort of thing that is made to be advertised with something like "(STAR'S NAME) is (FILM'S TITLE)!", and why not do that with Don Lee/Ma Dong-seok? I lent a co-worker Train to Busan a couple weeks ago and like just everyone else who sees it, he came out loving the big guy.

Honestly, if nobody at Universal is talking to him about a role in the next Fast & Furious movie, they're asleep at the wheel over there - who says no to him as the charismatic adversary who fights Vin Diesel to a standstill?

Seongnan hwangso (Unstoppable)

* * * (out of four)
Seen 1 December 2018 in AMC Boston Common #5 (first-run, DCP)

Ma Dong-seok is being billed as "Don Lee" for the American release of Unstoppable, which isn't inaccurate - his given name is actually Lee Dong-seok - but it does make one wonder if he's looking to take some roles outside of South Korea while his profile is high from Train to Busan, Along with the Gods, and Champion. Hollywood would certainly be lucky to have him if so; this B-movie likely wouldn't be half as much fun without this particular big guy in the lead.

He plays Kang Dong-chul, who runs a small service delivering fish at the Incheon market with buddy Choon-sik (Park Ji-hwan), always running short on money because he gets drawn to bad investments, the latest being king crabs, frustrating his wife Ji-soo (Song Ji-hyo), though never for long. She's the one who gets in an argument when they're rear-ended by gangster Ki-tae (Kim Sung-oh) and is kidnapped a few days later, but things don't go down as usual then: Ki-tae gives Dong-chul enough money that the police look at him strange when he goes to report the crime. Fortunately, Choon-sik knows "Bear" Gomsajang (Kim Min-jae), a private eye familiar with the underworld, and on top of that… Well, Dong-chul and Choon-sik weren't always fishmongers, with Dong-chul an infamous brawler before he met Ji-soo.

Folks who aren't familiar with Ma Dong-seok should probably just go watch Train to Busan right now, but he's basically like if a burly 1980s action hero like Sylvester Stallone was also effortlessly charming - not quite a Korean Dwayne Johnson (who tends to be more self-aware where his charisma is concerned), but a guy who can be soft-spoken and kind of intimidated by his wife but also just an absolute force when someone tries to come at him physically. He shines as an everyman and a big teddy bear in the opening scenes and a guy frantically worried about his wife later, but sells the fights pretty well, with Dong-chul not enjoying them but kind of rolling his eyes that these guys are trying to knock him around, something that also works when he's playing the straight man to Bear and Choon-sik stumbling into trouble.

Full review at EFC.

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