An unquestionably flawed film, Joint Security Area remains a fascinating attempt at reconciling the tensions between North and South Korea on a human level, and marks a giant leap forward for director Park Chan-wook. It's framing story takes some time getting going (and is punctuated with some weak performances and dubbing), and the visual flourishes occasionally seem superfluous, but once it settles down to focus on the unlikely friendship between two groups of Korean border guards, it quickly develops into something truly extraordinary. Performances from Lee Byung-hun and Song Kang-ho are outstanding.
It looks great. It - perhaps ironically - sounds great. The acting is fine, particularly from Jean Dujardin and Uggie the dog. But while the novelty of a modern silent film is fun (with all due respect to Mel Brooks SILENT MOVIE), it feels more like a stylistic exercise or a short film stretched to feature length rather than a complete work. It's so slight and breezy, and instantly forgettable.
It's the same old story. A group of orphan Taekwondo experts form a synth-pop band and fight ninja drug dealers while fending off attacks from rival bands and celebrating peace and friendship. Yet, somehow this lost 80s oddity manages to add the element of EXTREME VIOLENCE just to give it that certain je ne sais quoi. Thank goodness this bizarre action picture was rescued from obscurity.