Young-hwa is sort of like the Korean Dan Rather. The disgraced former television anchor has
been demoted to a lowly radio call-in host.
However, when a domestic terrorist calls into his show, the “journalist”
tries to leverage his scoop into a career comeback. Alas, nothing goes according to plan in Kim
Byung-woo’s The Terror Live (trailer here), now playing in
first, Yoon assumes the caller is pesky crank, but for some reason his producer
is unable to dump his call. When the mystery
man threatens to blow-up the nearby bridge, Yoon dares him to follow through—and
he does. Capitalizing on his direct line
to the terrorist, Yoon negotiates a return to the anchor’s chair with the
sleazy SNC news director. However, he
quickly realizes he is playing a far more dangerous game than he realized.
starters, there is the explosive device the mad bomber somehow slipped into his
earpiece. While the initial explosions
scrupulously avoided human casualty, the second round left an isolated section
of the bridge precariously listing on its caisson. Amongst the bystanders trapped there is Yoon’s
ex-wife, Lee Ji-soo, a fellow reporter.
Yoon finds himself caught between the news director, who orders Yoon to
provoke a spectacularly tragic finish and Park Jung-min, the national security
official imploring him to stall for time.
is hard to judge from Terror Live whether
Koreans have more contempt for journalists or politicians. Probably the former, but it is a close call. Neither displays much integrity throughout
the film, but Yoon will find himself on the business end of some cosmic
comeuppance as a result of his past sins.
mega-star Ha Jung-woo (who was all kinds of bad in The Berlin File and Nameless Gangster) once again is quite the intense anti-hero as the existentially
torn Yoon. He largely carries the
confined space-pressure cooker film singlehandedly. Unfortunately, only Jeon Hye-jin provides him
any measurable support as the tough but seemingly decent Park. In contrast, Lee Kyoung-young is eye-roll
worthy as the ridiculously oily news boss.
Still, he makes more of an impression than the rest of the blandly anonymous
an extent, you have to give Kim credit for not backing down. He steadily raises the stakes and never shies
away from the enormity of the terrorist attacks. Frankly, the sight of bomb damaged buildings slowly
teetering over might be too much for New Yorkers with particularly vivid
memories of September 11th. Many
more viewers will also find Kim’s third act nihilism—unsubtly implying a
bombing spree is not such an unreasonable response to political opportunism—rather
problematic as well.
Clearly, Kim understands how to stage a
hold-the-line thriller. His execution is
strong, but his ethical implications and character motivations are
questionable. TV journalists might be
pond scum, but the SNC network big wigs often just seem perversely
villainous. A frustrating example of a
potentially taut terrorism drama that implodes on itself, The Terror Live is now showing in New York at the AMC Empire.
Labels: Korean Cinema, Movie Journalists, Terrorism in film