Courtesy of Subway Cinema I was invited to a sneak preview screening of the Korean mega-flick Haeundae last night. Going into it, all I knew was that it was a high profile, big-budget film about a giant tsunami. So basically I was expecting to see the Korean version of The Perfect Storm. Turns out it was a very different kind of movie, unlike anything Hollywood would ever produce.
The first half of the film plays almost like a romantic comedy. We get introduced to numerous characters who all live or work in the beach resort town of Haeundae. The comedy is very campy slapstick and not very subtle, a clear sign that this movie was intended for international distribution. As you grow to like the characters, many of the laughs just come from how over the top some of them behave. You’ll start to think that Koreans are always over-reacting and yelling at each other. In other words, it’s pretty realistic, hahaha.
I was enjoying this part of the film too, but kept thinking to myself “this is what Koreans consider a big budget film? What did they spend the money on??” Ah, but then the second half of the film kicks into gear as the tsunami forms out at sea. Suddenly all hell breaks loose and then you see where the production money went. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone that hasn’t seen it, so I won’t go into any details here. But let’s just say the sweeping visuals are breathtaking as the storm makes landfall and the film becomes a catalog of how many ways there are to get killed by a tsunami.
Yes, the underlying storyline is somewhat formulaic, but aren’t all natural disaster flicks? In the end, it was a very entertaining movie that’s funny, exciting and heartwarming. And it doesn’t hurt that it’s got a gorgeous lead actress in Ha Ji-Won. It’s definitely a big movie and needs to be seen in theaters to appreciate it at its best. If you’re in NY, the movie starts today at Loews AMC Village 7 (66 Third Ave).