No Blood No Tears
"Think Snatch, without the comedy but with all the style."
No Blood No Tears (2002)
Director: Ryu Seung-Wan
Producer: Kim Sung-Jae
Writer: Ryu Seung-Wan, Jeong Jin-Wan
Cast: Jun Do-Yeon, Lee Hye-Yeong, Jung Jae-Young
Running Time: 116 min.
Plot: Two women play it by the guys' rules and make it their own. Everyone is after the same bag of cash in a dog-eat-dog world
Availability: This title is available at HKflix.com
DRAGON MA'S REVIEW: I managed to watch this last night and and it came as complete surprise, I'd heard good things about this film, although mostly people compared it to films like 'Snatch' and 'Pulp Fiction'. The film definitely retains the same style as 'Snatch' but somehow weaves it's own charm. For those who haven't seen it I'll lay it out for you:
Kyong-Son is an ex-female gangster, all washed up and left driving a taxi after being left high and dry by her ex-husband, she's also saddled with the debt he owes to some gangsters. Soo-Jin wants to be a singer in Japan but she's stuck with an abusive boyfriend who regularly beats her when he either gets drunk or just generally feels like it. Soo-Jin and Kyong-Son meet after crashing in a street. Soo-Jin's boyfriend runs an illegal dogfight ring but he has plans to make a big score with an a boxing match. Soo-Jin decides to rip him and enlists Kyong-son to help her.
Now there's more but the story jumps around a lot and there are many characters but each character plays a role, there are no throwaway characters in this film. This film exudes style like there's no tomorrow, it makes no apologies for it's roots in pulp noir. The one thing that did jump out at me was the level of violence in this film, there's no cartoon violence here, it's real and it's brutal. There's a fight at the end involving both women a guy and it's almost painful to watch because really get hit HARD, they don't simply get slapped, they get majorly f***** up. I have to give it up for both of the lead actresses in this film, they're both superb, Lee Hye Young for her world weariness and toughness. Jeon do Heong as Soo-Jin takes what seems like a shallow role and turns it into something of substance.
I won't say this film is perfect, some of the fight scenes are choppy and it's very difficult to tell what's going on. It does move at a slow pace and it's relentlessly brutal. Sometimes it does look like the director was showing off with slow motion shots and computer effects to enhance some of the fight scenes. All this is fairly minor and it's still a fun little film despite how brutal it can be.
I also have to say this film has one of the best badasses I've seen in awhile. He doesn't have a word of dialogue but he's the best Jet Li style badass I've seen in ages, he even wears a tunic like Jet did in FOL. He's played by Jung Du Hong who also did stuntwork/fight choreography for Musa and he's THE premiere korean fight choreographer. After seeing his work here, I'm impressed, he seems to favor impact and realism rather than making it look pretty. He kicks major ass in this film.
That said, it's a great little crime film, there are plenty of twists that aren't telegraphed and the two women are great, what more could you want.
DRAGON MA'S RATING: 9/10
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S REVIEW: Wow, what a huge improvement over Ryu Seung-Wan's first film, "Die Bad". In fact, it's actually hard to believe the same guy is behind them both. Unlike "Die Bad", this one flows easy, it's well-written, and showcases a handful of colorful characters that keep the film alive and interesting; it also has a nice blend of style and substance, unlike "Die Bad's" shady collision of style and over-dramatic issues. The best way to describe "No Blood No Tears" is easy - it's a Korean Guy Ritchie film ("Snatch"), only with more action and a lot more violence and blood, which is always a good thing. However, don't let "No Blood No Tears" fool you into being a mere emulation of Ritchie's work. There's enough one-of-a-kind greatness to dismiss it just as a copy. Why don't we just say that Ryu Seung-Wan is following Ritchie's footsteps out of respect for his technique and clever execution.
In "No Blood No Tears", Ryu Seung-Wan makes great use of split-screen, motion effects, fluid flashback sequences and a fine touch of cgi to make his film a vogue and ultra-hip ride. The cinematography is bright, edgy and fast; and the sets and visuals are acid-fashion oriented that almost play a peak towards Tsui Hark-land. Even the music, which consists of various electronica beats (in car chases/action scenes), Korean pop (misc.), and downbeat music (during some of the film's most horrific violent sequences and woeful gestures) are well suited.
The plenty action scenes, much of which were hand-to-hand combat, were outstanding and sharp. Even martial-arts fans will appreciate a few chopsocky moves here and there (sure beats the hell out of anything Jackie Chan has done in the last 3 or 4 years). As much as there is exaggerated cartoon-violence, there's also some pretty brutal stuff. I'm not sure if I've ever seen a character go through so much beatings, tumbles and falls as one did here -- and lived through it...well, lived longer than I would imagine. :)
The most likable aspect of the film is it's colorful characters: An abusive boxer, a washed-up middle-aged woman, a martial-arts fighting hitman, a sexy wannabe-singer, incompetent debt collectors, bizarre gangsters and, yes, a bunch unlucky cops and silly informants. All characters are likable with darksides, and like Equinox21 says (see review below), they all get their share of beatings and blood shed. Like most pulp films of the post Quentin Tarantino/Guy Ritchie era, all the characters end up on the same mission: obtaining a shit load of cold, hard cash. Of course, the twists, the turns, the backstabbings, the double-crossings are all evident and alive so don't be expecting a smooth ride to a somewhat settling ending.
As far as the performances, there wasn't one single person that was bland. This is especially impressive since it's got a handful of them. Personally, I'd love to give hand claps to both of the film's leading ladies: Hye-yeong Lee and Do-yeon Jeon who are downright brilliant, not to mention really sexy, especially the latter (who failed to get naked, which is the only BAD thing about this film).
All in all, "No Blood No Tears" should satisfy almost anyone. Especially women, since this centers around two of them. It's a refreshing feeling, since this particular genre is dominated by men.
MIGHTY PEKING MAN'S RATING: 8/10
EQUINOX21'S REVIEW: A less appropriate name for a movie I have never heard. Not that this is the bloodiest movie made, far from it, just that every character bleeds somehow at some point in this movie. Perhaps they should have just called it No Tears, but that just wouldn't have sounded as cool. And "cool" is a word that really does describe NBNT. I award an A- for style to this one, losing a bit for the fight between Dok-Bul (Jae-yeong Jeong [the guy who plays the ultra-cool sniper in Guns & Talks to damn near perfection]) and the Silent Man (Doo-hong Jung). The fight wasn't bad, except that a good part of it was shot far too close up and edited too choppy, too Hollywood, so that you couldn't see all that was going on. This was minor, as most of the rest of the fights (and there were plenty of them) were superbly choreographed and looked amazing. Don't get me wrong, this is not a martial arts film (though there were elements of martial arts in some of the fights as Doo-hong Jung is a martial artist who did the martial arts direction for Musa); the fighting more resembled Fight Club than anything. The style element also comes from a very strong "Ritchie-esque" story. Think Snatch, without the comedy but with all the style.
The story is really about two women, Su-ji (Do-yeon Jeon) and Kyeong-seon (Hye-yeong Lee), who meet by accident (literally, a car accident), who end up working together to steal money from Su-Ji's abusive boyfriend. There's more than enough lying, cheating, backstabbing and good, old fashioned violence to keep everyone interested. Like any good movie, there are no real "bad guys" or "good guys", only shades of gray. Everyone in the movie has a sordid past and their own motives for their actions. Plus there's a nice catfight, which is never a bad thing.
No Blood No Tears, despite the highly misleading title, is a very cool movie. I'd recommend it to anyone who liked Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance or Snatch.
EQUINOX21'S RATING: 8/10