No Blood No Tears AKA Pido Nunmuldo Eobshi
R2 - United Kingdom - Third Window Films
Review written by and copyright: Gary Jukes (25th November 2007).
The Film

Two strangers come together and hatch a plan to steal a bag filled with cash. Not the most original plot, I'm sure you'll agree, but what makes 'No Blood No Tears' different to all the other 'heist' thrillers out there is the stylish execution and vast array of interesting characters.

The two strangers are Gyung-sun (Lee Hye-yeong) and Soo-jin (Jeon Do-yeon). Gyung-sun is a former gangster who now ekes out a living as a taxi driver, spending her days avoiding debt collectors and nights fending off the advances of lecherous, drunken businessmen. Soo-jin is an aspiring singer and pop star whose boyfriend, Dok-bul (Jeong Jae-yeoung), beats her when he's drunk and ignores her when he's sober. Dok-bul, a former amateur boxer, now runs an illegal dog-fighting ring under the control of the mysterious 'KGB' (better known as Kim Geum-bok). Seeking to escape her life, Soo-jin formulates a plan to steal the takings from one of the dog fights, but it's not until she (quite literally) runs into Gyung-sun that she can put her plan into action. And the plan is simple: before the dog fight is broken up by the 'police', the two women will switch the bag full of cash for a fake and Gyung-sun will escape with the money, whereupon the two will meet up and split the cash. Unfortunately, things don't quite work out as planned and the two women soon find themselves on the run from the police, a very angry Dok-bul, KGB's bodyguard, and several others who want the cash for themselves.

This is only the third film from director Ryoo Seung-wan that I've seen (after Arahan and Crying Fist) and I was impressed, even more so when I discovered it was only his third directorial outing (and his first for a major studio). The story does jump around from time to time so comparisons to Pulp Fiction (both in style and tone) are inevitable, but No Blood No Tears has a much faster pace and grittier action, with Ryoo showing great visual flair. While the focus is primarily on the women, none of the supporting characters feel like extras as they all have an important role to play in the story, whether it's the bumbling debt collectors or the trio of inept teens who also want the cash. Most of the humour in the film comes at the expense of those last two groups, plus one hilarious scene featuring the 'United Handicapped Democrats'. The performances are excellent all round, with the two female leads complimenting each other well. Jeong Jae-yeong is great as the former boxer Dok-bul, a character that director Ryoo would revisit in 'Crying Fist', and real-life Tae Kwon Do master Jung Doo-hong makes a good physical impression in his scenes as KGB's ever-quiet right-hand man. The director's brother, Ryoo Seung-beom, also puts in his customary appearance.

Overall this is an excellent film which shows that Korean film-makers are just as capable of turning out stylish, Noir-influenced action thrillers as anyone in the West. Highly recommended.

Video

The 1.78:1 anamorphic transfer is generally good, though some colours (particularly on the daytime outdoors scenes) seem overly-saturated. However, this does provide a nice contrast to the dingy and dark indoors scenes. The optional English subtitles are clear and a reasonable size to remain unobtrusive.

Audio

The Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo soundtrack does a good job with the dialogue and music, but the lack of surround and bass activity leads to a lack of impact in the action scenes.

Extras

A Theatrical Trailer and a series of Interviews running 14:40. The interviews feature, in turn, actors Jeon Do-yeon, Lee Hye-yeong, Jeong Jae-yeong and Ryoo Seung-beom, and finally director Ryoo Seung-wan. The actors each talk about their respective characters, how they prepared for the role, and the filming itself, while Lee also talks about how the Korean film industry has changed over the years (she is something of a veteran amongst the young cast, having been starring in films since 1984). Director Ryoo talks about the script, his decision to feature women in the lead roles, and how he coined the phrase 'Pulp Noir', which he uses to describe the film. Everyone comes across as very likeable and down to earth.

Rounding out the extras are a series of Third Window Trailers for PTU, Say Yes, Guns & Talks, Wild Card, Green Fish, and Kick the Moon.

Overall

The Film: A Video: B Audio: B- Extras: B- Overall: B

 


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