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Starring: Han Suk-Gyu, Song Kang-Ho, Kim Yun-Jin and Choi Min-Sik
Directed by: Kang Je-Gyu
Rated: R


Shiri is a highly controversial film in its homeland of South Korea. Director/writer Kang Je-Gyu, has touched a nerve with Korean people and boldly addressed the unrest that still sleeps hidden beneath a peaceful façade between the North and South.

With Shiri you don't just get a helluva action film, like a Collateral Damage or any number of the blow-em-up-good American nitch of heavy FX action and oodles of testosterone-filled pictures, you also get a subtle history lesson in cold wars, governmental distrust and the animosity that divides and ultimately drives people to revolt. A chilling look at how volatile peace is.

Story goes, a North Korean terrorist, disguised as a revolutionist, by the name of Hee has spent the last ten years making vicious attacks on South Korea's heads of state, buildings, civilians etc.. All in the name of the revolution North Korean extremist commandos wish to ignite.

Hee is a she, a woman (Kim Yun-Jin), and not the frilly soft-spoken stereotype of a young Asian gal by any stretch of the imagination. She's a ruthless soldier hell-bent on her cause. She's been out of the scene for a while. In hiding, waiting, the North Korean government suspects.

Special task force and super agents Ryu and Lee (Han Suk-Gyu and Song Kang-Ho) are suspicious she's back in action when a few horrible events around Seoul, seem to have her signature sniper style.

They also suspect she and her group of terrorists have stolen an odorless, colorless liquid bomb called CMX and plan to set forth a revolution by instigating hate between the two divided lands.

Sure enough, after a brief warning that indeed let's the agents know Hee is back full-force, she and her band of commandos follow through with a horrible threat and blow up an entire city building filled with innocent people.

Think World Trade Center. Obviously the film was shot pre-September 11th and this particular scene is all too close to our hearts, but the scene needed to stay to impact the story. The graphics used for the explosion are deeply disturbing and will have you holding your breath.

With no question of the lengths Hee and her men will go to, Ryu and Lee are put into overdrive.
CMX can level an entire city block it's so destructive. The building was a tenth of its strength. The agents don't know what the next target will be, and only have an old still photo of a girl they believe to be Hee. The pressure is on. Unless these two agents can figure out her true identity, and the next target before the group strikes again, thousands will perish and a war will certainly begin.

Incredible special effects and language barrier transcending acting make this foreign film a must see. Boosting Korea's most popular actors and a few relative new comers to the action genre, director/writer Kang Je-Gyu pulls off his film in any language. Some of the scenes did seem a bit jumpy - but it's an action film - let it go!

Shiri uses metaphors and beautiful cinematography to pull you in as it introduces you to the underbelly of society. People who are willing to kill for their beleifs...Timely huh? It's actually a few years old (it is over 3 years old). Shiri is wildly popular in Korea -South Korea - and has had more viewers than Titanic ! That's something in such a heavily populated country! Bravo to all the studios that decided to import and release it here in America.

Shiri's a strong antiwar film that's timing was delayed due to politics etc. But, with all of Hollywood jumping on the War film bandwagon (about ten thousand opening in the next three months I believe) this is little different and still oddly universally patriotic. Sure, Shiri will reopen your eyes and remind us all how fragile peace is, but at the same time it serves up some genuine action-filled entertainment.

Snack Recommendation: Beef bulgogi and Bam baap.

Blunt aside: Even the title is a metaphor. Shiri is a fish found only in the streams of North and South Korea. The fish travels upstream (like a salmon) when spawning, oblivious to the political turmoil the country may be experiencing; like we all should be, Shiri simply lives its life without fear or need for boundaries or hate...To survive it must be united with both parts of the country.

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