Monday 22 August 2016

The Current Cinema - Barrie Pattison reviews the Korean hit TRAIN TO BUSAN (with box office update)

A monster hit on its home turf and getting attention in festival exposure, its an agreeable surprise to find that Train to Busan actually does what the best trash movies do - follow nail biting build ups with cheerworthy outcomes. They even manage enough characterisation to create some involvement. It totally creams the country's more measured The Wailing, which we saw earlier this year.

Expert exposition, with the road kill getting up glassy eyed and emergency vehicles racing through the traffic, while sketching in the tension between Yoo Gong and his pre-teener daughter Su-an Kim who wants to visit separated mum for her birthday. They take the high speed K Rail train to Busan. The immaculately turned out conductor has the train hostess straighten her uniform scarf and we think aha  more characters! A barely glimpsed figure tumbles on board where the snotty school kids are being mean to isolated boy Woo-sik Choi, whom K pop girl Ahn So-hee determinedly sits next to. There’s a granny and her daughter.

So much for background. Lets get on with  filling up carriages  with blood thirsty  rabid zombies and introduce burley Dong-seok Ma with his pregnant wife Jung Yu Me, crooked on dad for nearly locking them in with the crazies. 

The stop at the station which the military were supposed to be protecting, filling with swarming khaki zombies who spill off the awning onto the platform when our lot switch escalators to get back up, is a great set piece - but there’s more.

The leads have to travel four zombie filled carriages, using the darkness of the tunnels for cover, to rescue their own, and the survivors, headed by the mean businessman don’t want to let them in. Well we know what’s going to happen to them. 

The tracks are blocked by derailed carriages and there are runaway trains, some great crash effects and a diesel engine pulling a carpet of zombies before we get the tunnel climax where the audience is by now articulating “Oh no!” 

Like Speed, on which it is modeled (along with a bit of the Indian Robot and Carnival of Souls), the film goes on too long after they get off the train and the digital work can be spotted at the end. But this one is pretty much admirable of it’s kind, free of the suspect science fiction speculation they fall back on in Snow Piercer.

Director Sang-ho Yeon (the admirable animator of Dwae-ji-ui wang/The King of Pigs, 2011) had a first go round as a toon with his Seoul Station. It will be interesting to see what these people do next.

Editor's Note: Train to Busan is, according to the ticket seller at the Event Cinema in George St, "the biggest Korean movie we've ever had on". Its on 21 screens around the country and after 11 days in release had grossed $390,000. Updated figures. After two weeks, the film has grossed $472,000. Second week gross dropped only 1%. 

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