Customer Reviews: Shiri
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  • Shiri
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I was excited about having a chance to watch this movie; after all, Shiri became South Korea's most successful and most-watched film of all time, surpassing even the mighty Titanic. It seems only right that a Korean film should hold the box office record in South Korea. I wasn't exactly sure what to expect from Shiri; I knew it was an action film involving a deadly female assassin from North Korea and that the plot revolved in some way around the idea of Korean unification, but that was the extent of my knowledge going in. Shiri definitely delivers, offering up heaping platefuls of suspense, action, and gritty violence; it also, much to its credit, carries an emotional payload of love, friendship, betrayal, duty, all of the angst that surrounds the question of unification. The special effects are well done (Shiri had a budget of only five million dollars, but that qualifies as a big budget in Korean cinema), the cinematography is beautiful, and the overall presentation of the film serves to touch the viewer in any number of ways.
I do have to admit that I found parts of the film somewhat confusing, especially early on; I also had trouble keeping some of the characters straight in my mind. I think this is explained by my American viewpoint and the fact that I could not devote all of my attention to the events on the screen as I had to depend on subtitles to follow the dialogue. Additionally, the whole theme of reunification obviously doesn't impact me the way it would a Korean audience. Even I can see how ambitious and daring the plot of this film was, though; this is truly a film borne out of the very soul of Korea.
Hee is North Korea's most infamous assassin, and as the movie opens, she seems to have reappeared for the first time in a year. South Korean special agents Ryu and Lee have been charged with the task of ending her reign of terror; this is no easy job, as she has left a trail of very important corpses right under their noses for years. As it turns out, Hee is not working alone now, and this only complicates things. Working alongside her now is a special, seemingly rogue element of the North Korean military. This group manages to steal a number of containers of a new super-incendiary device called CTX, and they stash these awful weapons throughout the metropolis of Seoul. These revolutionaries make demands that cannot be met, but their true goal is only made manifest in the final stages of the film. Against this backdrop, you have a highly visible cultural joining of both Koreas in the form of a soccer game in Seoul, the symbolism of which is made most obvious by the mutual attendance of the leaders of both Koreas. For special agents Ryu and Lee, the job of finding and eliminating the infamous Hee takes on incredibly emotional dimensions neither man could ever have anticipated, and it is on this highly personal level that the true heart of the movie plays out.
A 1999 film offering two distinct ideas about Korean reunification was definitely a risk for South Korean filmmaker Kang Je-Gyu. Of course, the greater the risk, the larger the possible reward, and this film proved the very opposite of divisive. South Koreans flocked to see Shiri, it is said that North Korea's leader Kim Jong Il arranged to see a stolen copy of it, and the South Korean government itself treated foreign diplomats to a free screening of this historic block-buster. Those who crave action and realistic violence will find much to their liking here, but it is Shiri's surprisingly powerful emotional impact that really sets the film apart as something special.
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on July 21, 2004
Explosions and car chases...check. Intrigue and espionage...check. Romance...check. Requires a brain to watch...check. This is quite possibly the smartest and most well-rounded action movie in the history of action movies. I loved it. The plot is interesting and makes you see the North Korea/South Korea conflict from a different perspective. (I told you it's smart.) The action leaves you breathless. Normally, I don't like romance in my action movies because it's usually just a cheap attempt to get a woman's top off and a few seconds of sex. The romance in this movie, however, is understated and appropriate. (I never thought I would write something like that in a review of an ACTION movie.) I do have one piece of advice for viewing Shiri: watch it in its native language with English subtitles. Under no circumstances should you listen to the dubbed English soundtrack. It is disappointing and disgusting to see the actors on screen giving it their all while their voices sound like they're watching paint dry. There are several extras, but the music video "When I dream" is the best of them. The song is absolutely beautiful, not to mention heartbreaking. (I even bought a CD by the singer, Carol Kidd, after watching this movie.) For anyone who thinks action movies can't be entertaining and brainy or who still think Godzilla is the true measure of foreign films, watch Shiri. You won't be disappointed.
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VINE VOICEon April 12, 2005
Yunjin Kim from the ABC TV show "Lost" is the North Korean mole at the center of this movie. You've seen all this before - a conflicted agent, duty and honor, a McGuffin that could destroy all of Seoul - but you've probably not seen it Korean style, or put together with obvious love by the filmmakers.

Surprisingly, "Shiri" is a loving travelogue of Seoul as much as an action movie. I've never been, but man does this movie make it look attractive. I think we see more of Seoul in "Shiri" than we do of Tokyo in "Lost in Translation."

By and large, this is an energetic action film that starts off over-the-top violent and then ends up as "Black Sunday." The plot is a bit confused, and at more than one location my wife and I were left scratching our heads trying to figure out what exactly was going on. The actions of the police are often equally strange - ambushing terrorists in one room of a building in which everyone else is going about their normal business? But it's an action movie, so just roll with it. It makes as much sense as any random Michael Bay movie and it cost a fraction as much to make.

If you're in the mood for an Asian action movie, this is worth a shot. Indeed, if you're not familiar with Asian cinema in general, "Shiri" is a good way to ease you into a whole other world of film.
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Dubbed by the local press as the 'small fish that sank Titanic', "Shiri (Swiri)" is the most successful film in South Korean box office history.visuals rivaling both Hollywood and Hong Kong action movies, the star power of popular Korean actors Han Suk-kyu ("Christmas in August") and Choi Min-shik, and a story centered around the continuing Cold War tensions between North and South Korea, this espionage action-thriller easily won over domestic audiences when it was released in 1999. "Shiri" also marked a turning point in the evolution of South Korean cinema.That said, the film's action sequences are rather fun to watch, and probably the film's only saving grace. Though the film was made for a paltry $5 million US (which is six times the typical budget for a typical Korean feature), the production values, particularly in the action department, are top-notch.So if you like action films then you will love this film.I give it 5stars because its one better action movies i have seen in good while.
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on March 28, 2004
Though the movie opens with some very violent training scenes, which may turn some people off to the movie, once you get beyond that, it has an excellent, though in some cases cliche, plot, well played roles, with good characters, and is nicely paced. Though certain parts struck me as fairly predictable, that happens a lot with movies (as well as books), so I tend to ignore the predictability and enjoy the story. If you like action movies with a story, as opposed to action movies with just action going for them, I would highly recommend this movie.
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on March 15, 2002
Wow! Hollywood couldn't make a film this stylish, smart, or dangerous if it used an eighty million dollar budget. It's tried before, but always fallen short. This film has it all - action for action lovers, an incredibly tragic romance, and above all in intriguing premise that is carried out well by the director and the actors.
The basic premise is this: A North Korean sniper, Hee, who had taken out numerous important South Koreans has been out of sight for a significant ammount of time. The two agents investigating her are dragged into violence, explosions, and loossing trust in what little they have to believe in. One of the agents, Ryu, is in love with Hyun, who is played equisitly by the beautiful Kim Yun-Jin. I can't talk much about their love story for fear of giving away any of the brilliant steps that it takes.
In short, if you are looking for what an action film can and should be, check out Shiri. If you like standard American aciton fare, you will love this. And if, like me, Hollywood action leaves you lacking, this film will blow you away.
Don't miss it!
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on March 7, 2004
My only exposure to this movie is from other amazondotcommers' reviews, which was very favourable. Nevertheless, I still didn't know what to expect. Some reviewers made allusion to "Le Femme Nikita," which is rightly so, but hardly the same movie. This is a guy movie and the lead actress didn't have as much screen time as the two OP agents which I think is okay because the movie was still able to give a profound impression about the what and why's of the Femme Assassin. Concerning the other reviewers, I have to agree with most, "Shiri" is quite impressive in the way that it tried and succeeded in making a Hollywodd style action movie but uniquely Korean. The melodramatic parts of the movie gives one time to pause from the sheer, dizzing action sequence, yet it didn't feel awkward although at times bordering towards soap opera. The plot, surprisingly was the movie's weak point, a bit too gimicky and had the potential to sag, where for not the actor's believable performances. Yun-jin Kim who plays the reincarnated Hyun had a bit more of a challenge having to play the vunerable pretty girl next door, to a deadly spy with a big gun. Kim had to convey varying degrees of emotions in a limited screen time convincingly, which gives her performance more notice. I also like the actor who played the nemesis, Min sik Choi. He has the same intensity that could be compared to a younger Clint Eastwood. And yes, I also like the ending, don't forget the tissue paper.
The DVD has a nice, extra long documentary on the making of "Shiri," which really shows you that these guys mean bussiness when it comes to action movies. They employ the same meticulousness of Hollywood movie makers, with a bigger challenge: a very, very small budget, relatively speaking ofcourse, 5 million dollars is nothing to a big action Hollywood movie, but to North Koreans movie makers, it's enough money to but their other half of the country, which makes you appreciate this movie even more. I know a reviewer pointed out the awkwardness of having to follow a plot in subtittles, but I didn't find it a problem, I thought it added to its uniqueness. I am really glad I followed the advice and reviews of fellow dot commers. This movie is worth having. I plan to watch it several more times just to catch some missed nuances and probably pass it around for others to appreciate it.
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on March 14, 2007
I have to admit this movie is a bit more slow paced than I had expected, but it's no snoozer! It keeps you interested with little bits of flashback and coincedences. They really try to give you the entire "picture" of the relationships in the movie. It's not my favorite Korean movie, but like I said it kept me interested and I did really enjoy it.
For more viewing of Korean Cinema I also suggest "Old Boy" for a crazy thriller and "The Host" for action/sci-fi.
***Also those of you who watch "Lost" on ABC will see a familiar face; Yunjin Kim who is Sun Kwon.
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on January 21, 2005
For a Korean movie with a much smaller budget than Hollywood, this is an impressive action movie. Shiri is during its time the top grossing film in South Korea, beating off such competitors as Titanic. Lee and Ryu are two South Korean intelligence agents who go hunting for the elusive North Korean female sniper-assassin Hee, while in the meanwhile the 8th special force of North Korea, a paramilitary organization, hijacks a special liquid explosive CTX, which is capable of blowing apart the city in small quantities. Intelligently paced and with a little twist in the middle, Shiri proves Hollywood and Hong Kong are not the only big fish in the international pond of action thrillers. Good acting, fine script - in short, an impressive film.
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on March 15, 2006
This movie was featured in the Philadelphia Film Festival a long time ago. I had a chance to rent this movie and i was BLOWN away. Shiri is a great action movie with a great female protagonist. Not many Asian movies do this. The sense of overpowering your victims at times feels great. Unlike Takashi Miike films, more violent and sick Shiri offers just a taste for whats to come to the American audience. The level of violence I say was the best and crazy! I loved the scenes where you just dont know when Shiri is goin to be discover and what she really is. I say Great Movie and people out there tryin Asian cinema for the first time or a need to watch something...good movie. If not try takashi miike films.....violences...such entertainment....
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