×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Anarchists

They're sexy! They're reckless! They're bohemian! They're pistol-packing idealists forever swaggering toward the camera in John Woo-style slow motion! They're ... anarchistic agitators against Japanese imperialism in 1924 Shanghai? A most curious mix of sober historical subject matter and up-to-the-moment stylized excess, first Korea-China co-production "Anarchists" is basically a formula "outlaw" buddy pic.

With:
With: Jang Dong-gun, Jung Joon-ho, Kim Sang-joong, Lee Bum-soo, Kim In-kwon, Ye Ji-won.

They’re sexy! They’re reckless! They’re bohemian! They’re pistol-packing idealists forever swaggering toward the camera in John Woo-style slow motion! They’re … anarchistic agitators against Japanese imperialism in 1924 Shanghai? A most curious mix of sober historical subject matter and up-to-the-moment stylized excess, first Korea-China co-production “Anarchists” — which split the Audience Choice Award at Cinequest with “Sandstorm” — is basically a formula “outlaw” buddy pic that treats its radical political moment no more seriously than the “Young Guns” entries did the American West. Splashy, rich-looking entertainment will rep a guilty pleasure for Asian action-cinema fans, even if Yu Young-shik’s feature directing bow substitutes episodic hyperbole for a consistent narrative/character focus.

Five protags comprise a slightly renegade sub-sect of larger underground forces agitating against Japan’s invasive rule. Seregay (Jang Dong-gun) is the melancholy loner, his suicidal recklessness always welcome in a tight spot; Lee (Jung Joon-ho) is the group’s resident kinder, gentler conscience; cancer-ailing Han (Kim Sang-joong) is their cold-blooded master planner; Dol-Suk (Lee Bum-soo) supplies the hot-tempered muscle; junior member Sang-gu (Kim In-kwon), a wide-eyed arrival from the hinterlands, recalls this saga in voiceover as its sole survivor.

Pic jumps out of the gate with Sang-gu being rescued at the last minute from a public hanging. Vague Wild Western romanticism — with a little “Cotton Club” Jazz Age exotica and gangster-noir thrown in — remains dominant as pic ignores ideological motivation in favor of glam derring-do.

The quintet executes various bold terrorist actions, attempting to assassinate imperialist and Nippon-serving local authorities via machine-gun ambush, bombs, etc. One such operation leads to Seregay’s willing demise.

Eventually expunged from a larger anti-Nippon movement now focused on socialism, the anarchists seem at a loss as they have no particular political agenda. They try their (comic) hand at armed robbery, then decide on one last, suicidal mission against visiting high Japanese officials on a docked cruise ship.

Beyond the trivializing silliness inherent in treating resistance struggles as iconic action-pic fodder, pic’s biggest problem is structural: Characters are barely introduced before focus begins passing baton-like from one to another. Charismatic figure Seregay is set up as the central figure, only to get killed off early on, and emphasis on the remaining anarchists’ loyalty-unto-death bond carries little weight when they’ve been so rotely sketched as individuals.

Feature’s sentimental buddy-pic slant always seems at odds with fact that their terrorist acts con-stantly endanger innocent bystanders. Butch Cassidy & Co. they’re not.

If “Anarchists” lacks emotional resonance and cumulative excitement, it nonetheless works well enough as a straight up bullet-ballet. Director Yu pulls off the numerous splattersome setpieces with requisite flash.

Cast looks good, which is pretty much all that’s required. Period flavor is nicely captured in expen-sive-looking production design, though costumes, hairstyles, music and other details sometimes flaunt accuracy in service of contempo aud tastes. Kim Eung-taek’s creamy lensing sets the nostalgic, escapist if none-too-convincing tenor. Tech aspects are first-rate.

Anarchists

Korea - China

Production: A Mirae Asset Capital and China Eastern presentation of a Cineworld Entertainment production in association with Shanghai Film Studio. (International sales: Cineclick Asia, Seoul.) Produced by Lee Chang-joon, Zhong Zheng, Fu Wenxia. Executive producer, Lee Jun-ik. Directed by Yu Young-shik. Screenplay, Lee Chang-joon, Lee Moo-young.

Crew: Camera (color), Kim Eung-taek; editor, Kyung Min-ho; music, Choi Man-shik, Choi Soon-shik; production designer, Zeng Changfu; sound (Dolby Digital), Ahn Sang-ho. Reviewed at Cinequest San Jose Film Festival, Feb. 25, 2001. Running time: 110 MIN.

With: With: Jang Dong-gun, Jung Joon-ho, Kim Sang-joong, Lee Bum-soo, Kim In-kwon, Ye Ji-won.

More Film

  • Jimi Hendrix sound check Monterey Pop

    Film Constellation Adds ‘Show Me the Picture’ to Berlin Market Slate (EXCLUSIVE)

    London-based sales and financing house Film Constellation has added Alfred George Bailey’s feature documentary “Show Me the Picture: The Story of Jim Marshall” to its Berlin market slate. The film will screen to buyers at the European Film Market ahead of its SXSW Film Festival premiere. Submarine Entertainment is handling distribution in North America. The [...]

  • 'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race

    'Sink or Swim,' 'Custody' Lead Race for France's Cesar Awards

    French actor-turned-director Gilles Lellouche’s “Sink or Swim” and Xavier Legrand’s feature debut “Custody” lead the race for this year’s Cesar Awards, France’s equivalent of the Oscars, with 10 nominations each, including best picture and best director. “Sink or Swim” (“Le Grand Bain” in France), a star-driven dramedy about a men’s synchronized swimming team, world-premiered at [...]

  • Face to Face with German Films

    Face to Face with German Films Unveils the Six ‘Faces’ of 2019 (EXCLUSIVE)

    Teutonic promotional organization German Films has announced that its annual initiative supporting German filmmaking internationally, Face to Face With German Films, will focus on actors and actresses as the campaign enters its fourth year. Six of Germany’s leading thesps – Maria Dragus, Christian Friedel, Luise Heyer, Jonas Nay, Jördis Triebel and Fahri Yardim – will [...]

  • (L to R) VIGGO MORTENSEN and

    'Green Book' Lands Post-Oscars Theatrical Release in China

    Fresh off Monday’s news that it had picked up five Academy Award nominations, best picture favorite “Green Book” is set for more good luck. The film will hit Chinese theaters on March 1, the first weekend after the Oscars, which fall on Feb 24, Alibaba Pictures announced on its official social media account. The film [...]

  • Fan Bingbing

    Chinese Celebrities Pay $1.7 Billion in Back Taxes Following Fan Bingbing Scandal

    Chinese film and TV stars have paid about $1.7 billion (RMB11.7 billion) in additional taxes, following last summer’s scandal surrounding actress Fan Bingbing. The figure was announced late Tuesday by China’s State Tax Administration. Chinese authorities launched a probe into the tax affairs of the entertainment sector last October. Companies and individuals were asked to [...]

  • Yalitza Aparicio as Cleo, Marco Graf

    Film News Roundup: AMC, Regal to Leave 'Roma' Out of Best Picture Showcases

    In today’s film news roundup, “Roma” will not be in the best picture showcases at AMC and Regal, “Jimi Hendrix: Electric Church” gets a release and SAG-AFTRA’s David White has a new appointment. ‘ROMA’ SPURNED More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & Piano' TV Review: 'Russian Doll' [...]

  • First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban

    First Look at SAG Awards' Cuban-Inspired After-Party (EXCLUSIVE)

    Celebrities at this year’s SAG Awards won’t have to go far for some tropical fun. Sunday’s annual post-show gala, hosted by People magazine for the 23rd year, is set to feature a Cuban-themed party space adjacent to the Shrine Auditorium. More Reviews Concert Review: Lady Gaga Outdoes Her Other Vegas Show With Masterful 'Jazz & [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content