J.B. Spins

Jazz, film, and improvised culture.

Monday, August 05, 2019

Exit: An Urban Cliffhanger


It is a little scary for  country, bordering a criminally insane regime, like South Korea, but there is the advantage of the resulting wide distribution of gas masks throughout Seoul. They will come in handy when a mysterious poison gas starts enveloping the city, but they only last for a short period. It turns out mountain climbing will also be a surprisingly useful skill when reaching high ground is of paramount priority. Yong-nam and Eui-joo look like they should be in a rom-com together, but they will be climbing for their lives in Lee Sang-geun’s Exit, which opens this Friday in New York.

Poor Yong-nam assumed he would have secured an impressive corporate job by this point. That is why he insisted on booking the banquet hall where Eui-joo works for his mother’s 70th birthday bash. Instead, he is embarrassingly unemployed. Rather than showing off, he hopes to avoid the woman who responded to his overtures with the spirit-crushing “let’s just be friends.”

As fate would have it, Yong-nam met her at the local climbing club. That means they both have skills. When the gas starts rising, the Weinstein-ish hall manager naturally looses the key to the roof, thereby establishing the need for the first of many spectacularly dangerous climbs.

Exit is not exactly what you would call a subtle or complex film, but the effects and the height-scaling stunts are pretty impressive—to the point of inducing genuine vertigo. There is no question all the shimmying across ledges and leaping from rooftops is all very effective. Frankly, Exit probably has the best climbing scenes since Cliffhanger. Of course, the romantic subplot is totally formulaic, but Cho Jung-seok and Lim Yoon-A (a.k.a. Yoona of the K-pop band Girls Generation) make a disgustingly cute couple, so it still works anyway.

Yet, it turns out the family relationships are the most potent stuff in the film. Despite all the grief Yong-nam gets in the first act, he and his parents and siblings have genuine love and concern for each other. Honestly, if you want to see spectacular feats of daring committed on behalf of family loyalty, forget the Fast & Furious spin-off and check out Exit.

Granted, this film is not great art, but it has big heart. The two young leads also have massive charisma and they were well coached on the ropes, so to speak. Disaster movies are rarely this much “feel-good” fun, so fans of the genre should not miss it. Recommended for everyone who enjoys those hanging-from-your-fingertips scenes, Exit opens this Friday (8/9) in New York, at the AMC Empire and is already playing in Los Angeles, at the CGV Cinemas.

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