Blu-ray Review: A Better Tomorrow 2012 / Cert: 15 / Director: Song Hae-sung / Screenplay: Hing-Ka Chan, Suk-Wah Leung / Starring: Ju Jin-Mo, Song Seung-heon, Kim Kang-woo, Jo Han Sun / Release Date: Out Now
Despite the specific date title, this is a 2010 Korean remake of the seminal Chinese film of the same name from 1986. The film that put John Woo and Chow Yun Fat firmly on the map. While keeping similar themes, this update takes its own path.
The plot centres around Kim Hyuk (Ju Jin-Mo) who has defected from North Korea, leaving behind his mother and younger brother, Chul (Kim Kang Woo). He works as a police officer as well as an arms smuggler, with the help of another Northern defector, Young-Choon (Song Seung-hun). Chul is found and brought to Hyuk's station, but he doesn't want anything to do with his elder sibling, believing that he abandoned them to save himself, while their mother was killed as he watched.
Hyuk finds himself in a Thai jail after being betrayed in a gun running deal, both by the buyers and his second in command, Tae Min (Jo Han Sun). Young-Choon avenges Hyuk, but is crippled in the process. Meanwhile, Chul has himself become a police officer, and is determined to bring both the gang, now led by the power mad Tae Min, and his wayward brother to justice.
The film takes the basic elements of the original story, and transplants them in Korea and puts the emphasis back on the story - the brother's split mirroring the divide between North and South - rather than the cool looking set pieces. That is not to say this version does not have its moments, there are a number of shoot outs that are well choreographed and have plenty of style, but nothing stands out like the ballet of violence that is the 1986 classic. The problem with remaking such a revered film is of course you will forever be compared. Had director Song Hae-sung called the film something completely different, he would have probably got away from many unfair comparisons. John Woo, director and writer of the original has an executive producer credit here, but judging from the brief sound bite in the extras, he literally just put his name to the film as a stamp of approval. Which makes the marketing of the film all the more frustrating. In big bold letters on the box, John Woo's A Better Tomorrow 2012. The original Korean title, Mujeogja (Invincible) would have worked better.
A big let-down, especially as I'm an advocate of the format, was the completely unnecessary 3D conversion for the Blu-ray, which adds absolutely nothing. On the plus side, however it does not spoil the look of the film either and it has not been used (so far) as an excuse to jack up the price of the disc, it's just pointless.
A great Eastern gangster film, which deserves more than just being tarnished by the remake tag.
Special Features: None