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With: Park Joong-Hoon, Jang Dong-Kun, Ahn Sung-Ki, Choi Ji-Woo
Written by: Lee Myung-Se
Directed by: Lee Myung-Se
MPAA Rating: NR
Language: Korean with English subtitles
Running Time: -99
Date: 07/31/1999

Nowhere to Hide (2000)

3 1/2 Stars (out of 4)

Through Rain and Through Snow

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

When Park Joong-Hoon lurches onscreen wearing overalls, low-top ChuckTaylor tennies and a dull look on his face, we may think of Lenny in OfMice and Men. But after he enters a warehouse full of bad guys, calmlydrapes himself backwards over a chair, then jumps up beats the hell outof half of them, we change our thought process to Toshiro Mifune, ChowYun Fat, and James Dean.

Park is the reason the new Korean film Nowhere to Hide works so well. He stars as Detective Woo, a swaggering, loping, brutish fellow on the trail of a killer. The killing takes place at Korea's "40 steps" and despite its violence, the scene is a thing of beauty. Rain pounds at the earth in slow motion. Various passerby climb up and down the steps, running for cover, opening umbrellas. A slowish melancholy pop song, "Holiday" (originally recorded by the Bee Gees) plays on the soundtrack. A man steps out of a shop, stops short of the pounding water, and waits for his servant to bring him an umbrella. Water spatters his glasses. While he waits, an unseen gunman shoots him and he falls all over the steps, blood swirling with rain.

It would be hard for the movie to sustain the level of the first two scenes, and I admit that it doesn't quite do that. But Park's pure stayed-awake-all night craziness and energy at least keep it on track. The plot consists of Park and his crew finding suspects and informants and pounding the stuffing out of them until they say the name of another suspect or informant.

Nowhere to Hide is directed by South Korean Lee Myung-Se. Lee throws in every cinematic gimmick he can think of, and the result is a kind of stylistic clash between Reservoir Dogs (1992), Run Lola Run (1999), the Sergio Leone westerns, and The French Connection (1971). Scenes take place in the rain and snow, and car chases and foot chases abound. The film is very violent, but Park understands how to give us a breather between thrashings. Characters take time out to eat, talk, and even go to the bathroom.

Overall, Nowhere to Hide offers more style than substance. It doesn't have quite the emotional resonance or adrenaline thud of Run Lola Run and other similar movies. But Park's incredible performance carries the film across and connects the scenes that don't work with those that do. And as a result, the film gets closer to the heart of what makes the best Hong Kong films work.

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