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on February 26, 2012
This is a horribly edited, watered down version of the film. Apparently Fox Studios thought it was too much for American audiences to handle so they literally edit and completely take out some of the films most defining, and intense scenes. This film is NOT worth owning with this cut. They basically take the movie from NC-17 to PG-13. I know it's R, but they even dumb down some of the dialogue to not make the movie be so grim. This is a non-Western action movie, and it's very obvious. So much so, Fox EDITED out everything that makes Korean films Korean. If you're a fan of The Chaser, I Saw the Devil, Oldboy or any of the other great Korean thrillers out there. Imagine all the action being cut out. You don't see the raw, realistic, horrific killings. You don't get the full fight scenes. You're watching a product stripped of its artistry and soul because Fox doesn't think you can handle it. What's worse, they didn't even release a BLU-RAY of this movie yet THEY MADE Korea's blu-ray release NOT include English subtitles to prevent people from around the world from importing it. They do that, and then don't even give you the actual product. Please, torrent this movie with soft coded subtitles or wait for UK's blu-ray to come out. It'll require a multi-region blu-ray player, but you'll get to see the film in high def and as the director intended. Not as Fox intended.
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VINE VOICEon August 22, 2012
Director Na Hong-jin's "The Chaser" shattered several box-office records in Korea and even won two major film awards in the 2008 Grand Bell Awards (best director and best film). Now, almost four years after its release, Na Hong-jin's follow up film finally gets released in the U.S. by Fox. "The Yellow Sea" was originally released in 2010 and received some coverage in the Cannes film festival. Those who have seen Na's first movie would remember "The Chaser" as a tightly-wound thriller that channels a lot of emotion and was a film based on a true story. "The Yellow Sea" may not be based on a true event, but rather based on the Joseonjoks in a region between China, Russia and Korea.

There has been some confusion as to what is the director's cut of this movie since the film originally debuted as a 156 minute movie in Korea while the director's cut is 140 minutes long. The U.S. Dvd being released by Fox only has a runtime of 137 minutes. I have done my research and the shorter, tighter 140 minute version is indeed Na Hong-jin's director's cut. This review is based on this 140 minute version, and honestly, it is so hard to spot the difference between the 140 and 137 minute versions. Perhaps it is because the U.S. NTSC Dvd was converted from the U.K. PAL format? I have no idea.

In the Yanbian province of China, Gu-Nam (Ha Jung-Woo), an ethnic Korean or a Joseonjok, is a disadvantaged cab driver whose evenings are mostly consists of hanging around gambling halls and drinking. He is also neck-deep in debt as he had taken a loan from gambling sharks in order for his wife to be able to legally migrate into Korea. To make matters worst, he has not heard from her since she left and is tormented by nightmares of her extra-marital affair while being hounded by his debt collectors. Gu-Nam sees a way out as a local gangster named Myun Jung-Hak (Kim Yeon-Seok) offers him a deal; all he has to do is to allow himself to be smuggled into Korea to kill a businessman and all his debts will be settled. Gu-Nam agrees and upon his arrival, he scopes out his target while at the same time, he searches for his wife. When the time does come to finish his mission, a string of coincidences and unexpected events occur that leaves him desperately looking for a way out. Now, Gu-Nam is being pursued by the Myun`s gang, the South Korean Mob and the police. What Gu-Nam discovers is something that would shock his being to its core.

"The Yellow Sea" is one tight, exciting and intense thriller, and can be a difficult movie to review without spoilers but I will try. It is marvelously visceral, justly brutal with a simple set up and premise, but yet, the film's structure and the manner it unfolds becomes such a cinematic treat. Na's director's cut have cut off the `fillers', changed some scenes and made the movie much more intense and exciting than the original extended cut. The violence have been kept intact and the film is as sexual as the extended cut. What Na did well, was make for a much more cinematic experience with added flair and impact than what was originally released (the voiceover and the photo of a child in the beginning is one of the director`s cut best changes). The messages in its narrative had been preserved and the shorter version only made for a much more exciting watch.

As with most Korean movies, the film spends some time developing its main character. There is an almost methodical approach with the way Na brought in the details of Gu-Nam's character. It was wise to really move the film in a way that truly justified the cause of his actions, it makes for a character that you can easily feel sympathy for. He is a man at the end of his rope, with a child and only his mother helping him raise her. It was a build-up which was effective that allowed a connection to the Joseonjok situation in Korea and China. This build up makes for a more satisfying experience as soon as the film began to take off, the viewer becomes set to root for his character while at the same time, begins to question the motivations behind each main character as represented by Myun and Kim Tae-Won (Seong -Ha Cho). The direction knew how to play on the screenplay's best strengths, it wasn't that twists and turns were original or stunning, but rather the way it executes the screenplay is set on careful manipulation that keeps one guessing. With its tight editing, good cinematography, interesting characters and careful directorial manipulations, the screenplay would have no problems engaging its viewer.

The film is filled with intense chases, brutal fights and fast-paced action to drive its momentum. The set ups are certainly credible as you see Gu-Nam stumble across Korea in desperation. The film had some pretty wicked fights which were executed with visceral realism. Axes, knives and baseball bats are the weapons of choice, but even a huge Boar bone can fit the bill. The combatants were no fighters with a lot of finesse and style, but rather you could see that they are real people; they are afraid and they are willing to do whatever it takes to live through the struggle. One could easily feel the emotions behind each encounter.

Many may say that Myun is a genre character and he may seem a tad cartoonish with his total awesomeness. Myun played by Kim Yeon-Seok was tough, mean, single-minded and totally relentless. Kim nearly stole the show as he closes in on his objective. Much of the movie is seen through the eyes of Gu-Nam and Ha Jung-Woo certainly delivers as someone who is certainly at the end of his rope. I could certainly feel his desperation and his resolve to redeem himself. The Kim Tae-Won character (played well by Cho) is by no means a special supporting role and he may be bordering on cliché, but he was a necessary one to achieve the film's narrative force. The screenplay may not be perfect since it left one device barely developed, but they were just tiny flaws to even nit-pick.

Director Na Hong-jin truly out did himself with his second film. I liked "The Chaser" a great deal, and I truly cannot say just which of his films is better. It is amazing how a simple story if handled by an unskilled director would no doubt only be bordering on `fair', while in Na's hands, a premise such as this could be this incredible. It is to the director's credit that a screenplay that works around familiar devices could become such a compelling story because of the manner it is told. Na did a fine job because of his editing, timing and good old fashioned know-how. "The Yellow Sea" is dramatic, poignant, intense, powerful, filled with surprises and twists that it thrilled and truly kept me at the edge of my seat up to its final scene.

The 140 minute Director's Cut is the better version.

Highly Recommended! [4 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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on March 23, 2012
As the previous reviewer, Jarrett "2cC," has warned, the American version of this film by Fox is not the version to view or purchase. Instead, you can currently obtain the blu-ray Korean director's cut from yesasia.com, complete with the director's commentary.
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on March 29, 2012
Officially, there are two releases of the film: A Theatrical Cut which was released in Korean theaters and clocks in at 156 minutes; A Director's Cut which was released internationally and clocks in at 140 minutes. The Theatrical Cut is only available in S. Korea on DVD and BR and is one of the few Korean releases which does not have English subtitles thanks to Fox International stipulations. The Director's Cut just received a DVD and Blu-ray release in the UK. Unfortunately, both are region-coded. The latter is not a problem if you have a region-free DVD/Blu-ray which can be had for a reasonable price nowadays.

As for this particular release, not only did Fox International skip the Blu-ray format, they made their own edits to the Director's Cut of the film by removing three minutes from it. I have seen the full cut of the film and I can assure you the violence in it is not any worse than what you'd see in a typical episode of The Walking Dead. The demographic of this movie is highly likely to be those who saw the director's first film "The Chaser" which was quite gritty and violent. This is not the kind of film Mr. Joe Sixpack would seek so why go through the trouble of watering it down?!

I just find it ironic that Fox International would partly finance the production of this film and buy the distribution rights to it then treat it and dump it like a straight-to-video 'B' movie.
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on May 4, 2016
Quite violent and graphic exciting story of a guy who goes on a mysterious mission to another country, probably to kill someone but does he have the nerve and the morality for such a thing? He is also looking for his wife whobleft to find work elsewhere. Then the bad guys come after him, and the police, and what about the family of the victim? Very suspenseful and well acted. Has two of my favorite Korean action actors in it.
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on February 11, 2014
While "The Yellow Sea," never quite reaches the harrowing heights of director Na Hong-jin's first (and enthusiastically recommended) feature film, the internationally acclaimed suspense thriller, "The Chaser," "The Yellow Sea," remains a terrific action film, anchored by a sympathetic and expressive performance by the lead actors, a movie that one reviewer from a major paper wrote, puts the action in the service of a story of surprising moral weight. (The same could be said for "The Chaser," come to think of it.)

Ha Jung-woo (who played the deceptively innocent-looking serial killer in "The Chaser") plays Gu-nam, a cab driver living in an impoverished area of Northeast China. Gu-nam is both deeply in debt (for reasons revealed as the film goes on) and tortured by not knowing what happened to his wife since she traveled oversea to South Korea months earlier, in a desperate search for paying work. Playing opposite Ha's Gu-nam is Kim Yun-seok (the disgraced cop turned pimp, and reluctant anti-hero of "The Chaser"), alternately terrifying and comedic as Myun-ga, a local gang boss who quietly dominates the trade in illegal immigrants from NE China to S. Korea, and one day, offers Gu-nam a devil's bargain: follow in his wife's footsteps and venture to S. Korea, discover what happened to her, in exchange for killing a S. Korean businessman while there (and thus wipe the slate clean of the debts they accrued in the north).

After a long, difficult journey by sea, Gu-nam painstakingly shadows his target, learning the man's routines, while hunting down clues to his wife's whereabouts. What follows is full of twists and turns, as Gu-Nam soon finds himself the quarry of the S. Korean police, polished, if vicious South Korean criminals operating under a thin veneer of outward respectibility, and eventually, the far more rough hewn, and even more dangerous gangsters from back home. The increasing suspense is punctuated by well choreographed set pieces, each more action-packed and than the last, none of which feel forced or tacked on, until the film reaches a satisfying, if deeply felt and tragic, close.

The films only real flaw, and it's a minor one, is an unnecessarily ambiguous revelation late in the story.

I was fortunate in that I got to see the 140 minute directors cut version, which is available in an english subtitled Hong Kong edition, as well as a blu-ray edition from the UK. I have not seen the version distributed in the US on dvd and blu-ray, and cannot offer a comparison. I can add my complaint to those of others, that American distributors continue to shoot themselves in the foot (and unnecessarily alienate, if not mildly insult, fans of East Asian films - a natural market) by not releasing directors cut, or full length versions of films from Asia. Other examples include the recut (for the American market) Jet Li film, "Fearless," (the far better original edit available in a HK-Chinese edition with a better soundtrack, and an additional fight scene), the Donnie Yen film "Dragon" (a martial arts movie remake of "A History of Violence," transplanted to what I think is early-19th Century China) and the Wong Kar Wai film "The Grandmasters," (despite the fact that Wong Kar-Wai re-edited the film for the American market) which is missing large chunks of secondary storylines focusing on supporting characters, or the legendarily butchered versions of the comedy "Shaolin Soccer," Miramax in years past.
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on September 3, 2012
The Yellow Sea is a South Korean thriller. Gu-Nam is given the opportunity to clear his debt by killing a man in South Korea; a chain of unfortunate events occur that leave Gu-Nam as the target.

The Yellow Sea starts off with a slow pace for the first hour. It's not dreadfully slow, but I think it's a bit slower than you'd expect if you're a fan of The Chaser. I loved the chase scenes in this film, the scale of them were significantly upgraded; whether Gu-Nam is being chase by dozens of police officers and several police cars at the same time or being chased by several thugs with knives and hatchets, the chase scenes were exhilarating and the definition of "edge-of-your-seat". The story is a lot deeper than what I mentioned previously, but I don't want to spoil anything. It really has amazing ending that breaks away from the Hollywood formula. The acting was brilliant, direction was great, and the music was amazing (the song at the credits was amazing; I sat through the credits just to listen to it!)

I feel obligated to comment on the cut/uncut issues in this film. I have not seen the original full-length version and do not appreciate Fox International Productions cutting so much from this film. It messes with the filmmakers true vision and it shouldn't be acceptable (that is if they made these edits without his permission). But, this does not completely destroy the film. Also, another reviewer mentioned something about the movie feeling like it was cut from NC-17 to PG-13, again feel to obligated to mention, you should not watch this with anyone under 17; there are alot of bloody knife/hatchet fights and plenty of full nudity sex scenes to justify an R rating (although a bit exaggerated, I understand where the reviewer is coming from, it shouldn't have been cut in the first place). I only dropped the score 1 star because of the cuts, I personally don't feel like it's a 1 star movie. I would love to see the raw film, though.

Overall, I highly recommend The Yellow Sea. It's another wonderful film from South Korea. As of 9/3/12, the cut version is available on Netflix Streaming.

This film has strong violence and blood, it also has multiple sex scenes and nudity (the sex scenes are vivid).
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on January 19, 2014
Still dont get why it's called the Yellow Sea, but regardless it was good. Not really deep or thought provoking, but just a good, original story, intense characters and a hole lotta blood (which is a natural thing with these films) and I don't mind at all. And one thing I like about these movies is the realism in the violence and it's a lot of blood but not a splashing gore fest like japanese movies (which I also dont mind). The protagonist was a slippery little bastard, but I would have to say that Myun stole the show and was a total badass. Not the best in these line of films but not one to miss either.
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on August 20, 2012
Some of the reviews are completly off. This cut was made by the director because he was not satisfied with the Korean theatrical cut that was too rushed. This edit is now color corrected and is much tighter in the 2nd half and better for it.
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on January 5, 2014
Forget the stupid plot and the dumb ending. This movie has good chase scenes (by foot or car), and excellent axe chopping scenes. This movie is very bloody and it is 100% not suitable for children.
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