City of ViolenceNumber 99 on the list, The City of Violence – a 2006 Korean film with a character driven story and one hell of an action finale.

This film  begins telling the story of a former gangster trying to clean up his act, Wangjae.  Wangjae was always the toughest kid on the block, and a clever man on the streets but is now working at a local bar.  He is lured into a fight one night and is stabbed to death.

His friends and brothers learn of the news and at his funeral with all the talk and share old times about Wangjae.  His best friend, Taesoo (Doo-hong Jung), is a detective from out of town and he decides he’s going to take time off and track down who killed Wangjae in order to bring them to justice.

As things unfold we learn that one of Wangjae’s friends, Pilho, is an increasingly powerful mobster and is slowly taking over and ruining the streets. Eventually we learn that he is the man behind Wangjae’s murder.

So in true action movie style Taesoo and Pilho’s brother Seok-hwan decide to go after Wangjae and get revenge for the death of their friend and brother.

From Teenagers to Men

This movie tells us a lot about the characters history, constantly flashing back 20 years into the past to when these guys were teenagers.  As a group they got into fights and fought rather well, with none better than Wangjae, who unfortunately ended up with the least (being dead and all).

Ready for Action

Meanwhile Pilho was perhaps the most picked on or weakest of the group and became the most powerful but also the most evil.  As Pilho slowly takes over the streets, he starts torturing and murdering those who helped him get there, all in the name of building a casino and making a bucketload of money with his new business partner.

Overall, it shows a tight group of friends and brothers who have taken their lives in different directions, with some becoming bitter enemies.  I think these flashbacks helped to reinforce what was going through the characters minds as they faced a bitter present some 20 years after – one of them is dead, the other evil and most of them aren’t exactly the big successes they planned to be.

This whole theme is parallel to the story of their hometown – a happy place they grew up in which has become ruined with crime at the hands of Pilho and those like him.

Ultimately I think the death of Wangjae symbolises the death of  her0ism and goodwill in the town, and so Taesoo and Saek-hwan are back to defend it.  It’s a pretty straight forward theme told in a straight forward manner, but with top performances by the actors.

big fight ahead

So you can see how these themes help to build the anger and fighting force behind Taesoo and Seok-hwan, and makes for an epic, blood filled martial arts finale.

The Action & Martial Arts

There are some pretty damn good fight scenes in this movie, with a few smaller ones to help kick things along.  You’ve got a pretty top notch battle on the street between Taesoo, Seok-hwan and a group of what must be 50 or so thugs.  This fight is the first to give you a sample of the fantastic energy and rough edge that Doo-hong Jung’s fight scenes are known for.

But the finale takes the cake, as two men storm a party attended by all of the ‘bad guys’, and rip apart all of the henchmen in their way using some awesome weapon work and stylized Taekwondo action.


It’s a long action packed and energy driven fight that holds a fast pace while also showing a little extra realism – with both characters getting exhausted throughout the fight – as opposed to being invincible wrecking machines like most mainstream martial arts heroes.

The Verdict?

This movie is definitely above average.  It’s story and acting is pretty solid, while the action is performed extremely well.  It’s not a list topper but it’s definitely not far behind – check it out for a lot of fun!

On DVD –

Region 1 (US & Canada)
The City of Violence

Region 2 (UK, Europe, etc)
The City of Violence

Region 4 (Australia, New Zealand, etc)
City of Violence 

More info on Movie Regions here.

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