February 04, 2006

TUBE (2003) Korean action thriller

TUBE (2003, South Korea)
Region 2 PAL DVD (from Asian Vision)

As a change from creepy horror, I watched a Korean blockbuster instead. Tube aims to emulate Western action films like Speed, whilst not having nearly the same budget. It has a certain pedigree, coming from the makers of cult thriller Shiri.

Having given up the police for a job in subway security, our hero has a chance to settle an old score when a terrorist hijacks an underground train with the mayor and a 1,000 passengers on board.

After 5 minutes into the film, you'll have a good idea of what sort of film to expect. The protaganists in the initial gun battle seem impervious to a whole army of police with machine guns. Top it off with a couple of gratuitous exploding car stunts and you'll understand that the accent is on action, and light on logic. The ensuing subway train action relies more on blue-screen fakery and CGI rather than actual stunts, so please don't expect expensive Die Hard 2 set pieces.

Having said that, the film's strength is its cast - the characters are likeable and well-acted. This being a mainstream action film, there is comedy relief on hand from Seok-hun Kim's overly angry boss. Du-na Bae, as Kim's fiesty love interest, is particularly memorable - she previously starred in the awesome Sympathy for Mr Vengeance. Though I'm not sure why she carries a guitar around for the entire film!

This isn't a bloody police vs gangster shoot-em-up - there's no gore - it's more the sort of violence you expect from a disaster movie rather than a martial arts film. That said, it still doesn't pull it's punches with the fight scenes, the impact being more dramatic than visceral.

Basically I'm trying to warn off viewers who watch Asian action films for high-class stunts and blood action, and recommend this to those interested in Korean mainstream cinema - this one not to be taken too seriously. The characters are very real, the acting excellent and the plot keeps moving briskly along with twists around every corner.

The Scandinavian Asian Vision region 2 DVD (pictured) has an excellent DTS soundtrack, clear picture and excellent english subtitles. No extras except trailers.

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