A North and South Korean go head-to-head over some nuclear warheads as two typhoons converge on the peninsula in this lame attempt at a big-budget actioner by Kwak Kyung-taek. Caught up in a triple vortex of poor scripting, unexciting action and leads you couldn't care less about, the pic boasts good production values but little else.

A North and South Korean go head-to-head over some nuclear warheads as two typhoons converge on the peninsula in this lame attempt at a big-budget actioner by Kwak Kyung-taek, helmer of local B.O. sizzler “Friend.” Caught up in a triple vortex of poor scripting, unexciting action and leads you couldn’t care less about, the pic boasts good production values but little else. On limited Stateside release in June via Par Classics, “Typhoon” blew itself out with a lame $139,000 haul amid destructive reviews.

Hyped to the max late last year as reportedly the biggest-budgeted South Korean movie ever ($15 million), pic managed a good but hardly spectacular 3.4 million admissions ($22 million) on release in December. Business elsewhere in Asia, including Japan, was blah. Par version was 11 minutes shorter than the original (reviewed here and now available on Region 3 DVD).

Strung-out plot basically boils down to North Korean Choi Myeong-sin (Jang Dong-geon) stealing some nuclear missile kits that have been covertly supplied by the U.S. to South Korea to balance a potential threat in the region from Russia and China. Choi is pissed because his family was denied asylum in South Korea 20 years earlier when they fled North Korea. Now he intends to devastate the peninsula with radioactive dust.

Given the impossible mission to stop him is former Navy SEAL Kang Se-jong (Lee Jeong-jae), who’s sent undercover while the U.S. and Japan are still dickering over what to do. Kang tracks down Choi’s long-lost sister, terminally ill Myeong-ju (Lee Mi-yeon), near Vladivostok to lure Choi out of hiding. But Choi slips out of the trap and heads with the goods toward Korea, just as two typhoons do the same. Meanwhile, the U.S. has sent a sub toward Choi to obliterate all proof of the warheads.

Most interesting is the pic’s nationalistic subtext, which proposes Koreans should look after their own interests, with no interference from Washington or Tokyo, and that North and South Koreans essentially share a mutual understanding. However, the latter point is never developed in the main protags’ relationship.

Jang (“The Promise,” “Taegukgi”) and Lee Jeong-jae (“Il Mare”) glower a lot but strike no sparks, and the action, when it comes, is nothing special, with a fumbled climax. Russian and Thai locations look good in Hong Geong-poo’s widescreen lensing, but Kim Hyeong-seok’s broad-brush symphonic score pays scant attention to what little emotional content is on the table.

Typhoon

South Korea

Production

A CJ Entertainment (in S. Korea)/Paramount Classics (in U.S.) release of a CJ Entertainment presentation of a Zininsa Prod. production, in association with CJ Entertainment. (International sales: CJ, Seoul.) Produced by Park Yeong-jin, Lee Yong-nam. Executive producer, Lee Mi-gyeong. Executive in charge of production, Son Se-hun. Directed, written by Kwak Kyung-taek.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Hong Gyeong-pyo; editor, Park Gwang-il; music, Kim Hyeong-seok; production designer, Jeon In-han; art director, Gang Chang-gil; costume designer, Yang Min-hye; sound (Dolby Digital), Jeong Gwang-ho, Choi Tae-yeong; assistant director, Jeong Yeong-heui. Reviewed on DVD, London, July 26, 2006. Running time: 124 MIN.

With

Jang Dong-geon, Lee Jeong-jae, Lee Mi-yeon, Kim Kab-su, David Lee McInnis, Chatthapong Phantana-angkul, Heo Wook, Seon Ho-jin, Shin Seong-il, Park Chan-yeong, Kim Gwan-hun, Min Ji-hwan. (Korean, English, Thai, Russian, Mandarin dialogue)
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