DECISION TO LEAVE
Who said romance is dead? Let's just choose to believe that there's romance left but romance can still be deadly, as exemplified by the narrative in director Park Chan-wook's Decision To Leave (헤어질 결심 in Korean), a new mystery thriller written by Park and Chung Seo-kyung. Their film finds detective Jang Hae-joon (Park Hae-il) investigating a death of a man (Yoo Seung-mok) who fell from heights on one of his mountain climbing trips, Hae-joon treating this as a possible murder case with main suspect being the man's wife Seo-rae (Tang Wei). Despite Hae-joon being married himself with Jeong-ahn (Lee Jung--hyun), whom he sees only on weekends as she works in another city, he finds himself to be enchanted and intrigued by the mysterious Seo-rae, even if he suspects her of being capable of killing someone.
Decision To Leave itself leaves Park as a filmmaker clearly unrestrained, his attention to intricate cuts (edited together by Kim Sang-beom) and moody noir aesthetics driving the story forward. Cinematographer Kim Ji-yong helps to achieve that vision with expertly lit, crafted and composed images, often using frames within frames, mirrors and deep shadows to bring Hae-joon and Seo-rae's cat-and-mouse game to life. While Park and Chung's screenplay often sadly sacrifices established relationships—Lee has a rather unforgiving role to play—and compelling dialogue for mood and plot developments, it does let Park and Tang to go for broke in their portrayals. Their chemistry together is unmistakable while Tang especially is on top of her game, always saying a thousand words just with her eyes which conjure secrets, desire and hopelessness all at once. It's all a tragedy, just with a sexy, beautiful picture frame.
Smileys: Cinematography, Tang Wei
Frowneys: Some issues with screenplay
OPERATION FORTUNE: RUSE DE GUERRE
What a pleasant surprise from time to time to actually have some proof in hand that a movie that previously simply didn't exist, actually does exist! I guess that can be counted as a compliment to word-salad-obscurity Operation Fortune: Ruse De Guerre, directed by Guy Ritchie and written by Ivan Atkinson, Marn Davies and Ritchie. This time, the obligatory bald man leading a movie in this genre is Jason Statham who plays Orson Fortune, an international spy hired by government contractor Nathan Jasmine (Cary Elwes) to steal a destructive device from mobsters who are working for billionaire Greg Simmonds (Hugh Grant). Joining Fortune's mission are agents Sarah Fidel (Aubrey Plaza) and J.J. Davies (Bugzy Malone), as well as Hollywood star Danny Francesco (Josh Hartnett).
As always with Ritchie's material, it's best to lower your expectations and turn off your galaxy brains because ''Operation'' is safely in the wheelhouse of globetrotting action movies. There are sights to see, most of the action is solid and things go boom eventually. From the cast, it's Hartnett who is the most entertaining factor, playing a role while playing a persona as a real-life movie star, a triple effort which requires both dramatic and comedic chops.
With everything else, however, the real international crime should be that Ritchie manages to make such a bland, by-the-numbers movie which is somewhat thriller, somewhat comedy, somewhat action without ever committing to few or any of those genres properly. Hell, the writing even succeeds in making Plaza and Statham ridiculously boring even when they're doing exactly what they've done decently before. Throw in poorly explored locations and unflattering costumes and you get a film that actually might not exist after all in a day or two.
Smileys: Josh Hartnett
Frowneys: Originality, characterisation, story, locations