“No Tears for the Dead” is the new action thriller from South Korean director Lee Jeong-beom and stars Jang Dong-gun. The film was released on DVD and Blu-ray this week from CJ Entertainment.
A swift and emotionless professional killer named Gon (Jang Dong-gun) accidentally kills a young girl on his latest job and is completely devastated because of it. His employer then hires Gon to travel to Korea and to kill the young girl’s mother Mo-gyeong (Kim Min-hee). After trailing Mo-gyeong for a short period of time, Gon is reminded of his mother who abandoned him at a very young age. Mo-gyeong is in a state of utter despair and heartbreak after losing both her husband and her daughter. Gon feels like he owes an obligation to Mo-Gyeong. He must choose between successfully completing his mission or risking his life in order to save the target he was hired to kill.
South Korean filmmaker Lee Jeong-beom is capable of creating gripping and intense action thrillers featuring absolutely breathtaking violence and noteworthy performances. His previous film “The Man From Nowhere” is exceptional for these reasons alone. Maybe it was the four year gap between directorial features or that “No Tears for the Dead” has an absolutely horrendous English language dub, but it seems like Jeong-beom has lost the ability to stand firmly as a competent writer and director of South Korean cinema. It’s as if filmmaking is represented by a ship that never slows down and is constantly catching momentum. Jeong-beom no longer has the sea legs to ride said ship and flounders about as he attempts to fight back the urge to leap overboard every chance that he has.
In addition to a dub track that rides on your last nerve, the dialogue is also atrocious. Gon is very cold and dislikes every person he comes into contact with solely because he has mommy issues stemming back to his childhood. He tells someone to “get the f— out of his face” because they smell like garlic. Mo-gyeong relies on alcohol and prescription drugs to dull her grief and her doctor compares dealing with so many patient’s pain to menopause. When asked why Gon is siding with his target he replies that he’s just tired. It becomes painfully obvious that the screenplay is just lacking genuine dialogue.
It isn’t like “No Tears for the Dead” is this brilliant foreign film that suffers from a poor English dub. The dub track certainly doesn’t help matters, but the overused conspiracy storyline is too convoluted for its own good. There is a double cross in the film that makes no impact because the audience never has the chance to care about anything going on. You’re too distracted by Mo-gyeong’s daughter’s awful voice that sounds like a 35-year-old woman trying to be cute and a “touching” scene being utterly annoying because of the irritating way that Mo-gyeong cries. It doesn’t help that Gon decides to be the creepiest hitman ever by just lurking around for days and watches Mo-gyeong sob herself into a puddle of momentary comfort.
Besides a rather bloody sequence that opens the film, it takes over an hour for more violence to actually kick in. A glorious 3-minute sequence featuring messy action with exploding heads, severed fingers, sliced Achilles heels, and an endless array of bullets rolls out a blood red carpet and welcomes you to the second hour of the film. The concluding half of the film is pretty much all of the action you could ever want in a film like this. The action itself can be compared to Hong Kong cinema at its best, especially from the 80s and John Woo films in particular. There are moments where the film allows you to catch your breath as a viewer, but then decides that making you wait an hour for the main course is long enough and finishes in brutal fashion. The final scene of the film is a little confusing since that last scene in the elevator seems rather decisive over the fate of a certain character. It’s as if this last segment was added just to show that Jang Dong-gun is capable of crying and showing emotion.
The excellence of “The Man From Nowhere” will easily trigger interest in Lee Jeong-beom’s follow-up feature. What’s interesting is that “The Man From Nowhere” is about protecting a little girl and “No Tears for the Dead” is finding retribution for a little girl that was killed. Lee Jeong-beom is more than capable of crafting exquisitely violent action sequences that are completely breathtaking, but all of the bloody violence in the world can’t save a muddled story, horrid dubbing, and horrendous dialogue. South Korean actor Jang Dong-gun seems to be doing the best with what he’s given, but his awful haircut can’t help but help but give the impression that he looks like a South Korean version of Paul Reubens. “No Tears for the Dead” has some of the most satisfying and jaw-dropping action any film could ask for, but the other factors of the film are so weak that they fail to make as much of an impact or any sort of impact at all other than severe irritation.