A Better Tomorrow

2010 [KOREAN]

Action / Crime / Drama

Rotten Tomatoes Critics - Certified Fresh 93%
Rotten Tomatoes Audience - Upright 89%
IMDb Rating 5.8 10 1076

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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by claudio_carvalho 6 / 10

Melodramatic Remake

In Busan, South Korea, the powerful arms traffickers Kim Hyeok (Jin-mo Ju) and Yeong-choon (Seung-heon Song) are best friends. Hyeok has spent many months seeking out his younger brother Kim Cheol (Kang-woo Kim) that was left behind by Hyeok with their mother while escaping from North Korea. When Hyeok finally finds Cheol, his brother blames him for the death of their mother that was beaten to death in the prison and keeps distance from Hyeok.

When Hyeok travels with the gangster Tae Min (Han Sun Jo) to Thailand for a negotiation, he is betrayed by Tae Min and is arrested by the police. Meanwhile Cheol joins the police force to become a detective and Yeong-choon kills the gang that betrayed his friend. When Hyeok is finally released from the Thai prison and returns to Busan, he finds that his brother is a detective investigating Tae Min and Yeong-choon limped and in complete misery. But Hyeok promises that he would not return to life of outlaw. But he is haunted by his past and the need of protecting his estranged brother. .

"Moo-jeok-ja", a.k.a. "A Better Tomorrow", is an Asian crime film excessively melodramatic. The good storyline about brotherhood, friendship and loyalty discloses a plot confused in the beginning but also full of action. However the dramatic relationship between the two brothers becomes an annoying soap opera after the repetition of the same situation with Cheol rejecting his brother. Better off watching John Woo's "Ying hung boon sik" ("A Better Tomorrow" 1986) again. My vote is six.

Title (Brazil): Not Available

Reviewed by tigerstar154 7 / 10

Great but....

A Better Tomorrow

I had seen a trailer of this film during a screening of Jackie Chan's "1911." I was keen on seeing, but it fell short of my expectations.

Two brothers who have a thorny relationship try to gain each other's trust in the back drop of mafia trade.

The Pluses: Great scenery of Busan, acting of the main characters, the action scenes

The Minuses: slow pace, confusing plot, a lot of gore and cussing

Overall, A Better Tomorrow is great movie with some of its flaws. Don't watch if you have a sensitive heart.

Reviewed by Quinoa1984 5 / 10

tricked into seeing this, and it was... not bad, not very good, just "decent"

A Better Tomorrow - for some of us cinephiles the film's name brings to mind images of guys (i.e. Chow Yun-Fat in his break-out role and performance that made him a star in Hong Kong) in trench-coats and ray-ban sunglasses with big friggin guns firing away in blazing battles staged with a balletic precision and melodramatic (or just operatic) sleight of hand by John Woo. It was a classic unto itself, if not as polished as The Killer or as crazy as Hard Boiled with just as much (or more) genuine heart to its dramatic acting and story. So surprised I was then to see that my local cineplex- which often gets Asian films to cater to the the nearby town that is predominantly Korean- that 'A Better Tomorrow' would be coming to that theater for a two-week run. What better way to see Woo's film, I thought, than on a big screen like one of the ones at my local theater. I was even told (perhaps misleadingly to buy a ticket and/or concessions) that it was the 80's Woo film, albeit "Korean". Hmm, I thought, is it Korean? I thought it was from HK, like Woo's films usually are, but maybe it's dubbed in Korean for the community... hmm...

And no, lo and behold, it was really a remake (I can tell this as not an accident as Woo himself is credited here as exec producer). I decided to let the movie speak for itself; maybe someone would riff of of Woo's film while putting his own distinct take on the material. Suffice to say it's not anything to write home about. It takes the ingredients of the original story- a tale of brothers and betrayal, cops and gangsters, and a showdown at a big dock/shipping yard (that last part was the one thing that really stuck out most among set- pieces, and it's recreated here)- and just makes it... ordinary. It's a thriller that has a few decent performances (I couldn't tell you exactly who as I left before the credits rolled, albeit the main gangster villain reminded me of the villain from Oldboy, and it's that's the case then very good work there by a proved guy). It has a few flashy-violent scenes. Most memorable for me some time after the movie's end is when a character, after shooting up a massage parlor loaded with bad guys and with only a minor wound in his shoulder, walks away with sunglasses on, trench-coat on, and is trying to look super-cool... and then gets shot through the knee and his cool is taken down a peg.

But there's not really much to invest in any one character, and no actor here is like a Chow Yun-Fat or even a Ti-Lung, who were two major assets to the success of Woo's film as real actors with real star appeal. The guys here are workmanlike, easy to see how they go through the motions, and the director mostly lets the music (which even for an Asian crime movie) go way over the top to try to direct emotion from the audience when what's there should be enough, very stock stuff. If one has never seen the original Woo film, I could imagine some perfunctory enjoyment coming from the material, but the problem I had (and perhaps this is somewhat my fault and happens sometimes with Korean movies) was I couldn't keep track of some of the principle characters. I lost track of who was who in the first half hour of the movie, and had to be reminded when a character said someone's name. It finally got into a good groove once it flashed forward to three years later, and a character with a particular limp is distinctive. But the story doesn't always feel very closely knit together.

There's nothing in it that is so offensive as to want to leave the theater. There's also nothing that grabs me in and makes me rush out to tell friends who would perk up at a solid HK or Korean or whatever crime movie with big emotions and bigger gun battles. I can't really speak to the director's past work to draw upon comparison- one film by Hae-sung Song, Failan, is unavailable in the US though touted by reviewers on IMDb- but he doesn't push the material into anything very interesting. It might be commendable that the film doesn't slavishly imitate the original film, but then what else is there? Just general competency? A few cool looking characters in a gun battle or some tears shed at just the right flash of the cut of film? A Better Tomorrow 2010 most depressingly does what a good many American remakes do: takes the core ingredients, gives it a 21st century sheen... and it's generally just dull.

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