dir. Je-Gyu
Opens Fri April 5
Clinton Street Theater

If there's ever been a doomed romance, it's got to be the one between North and South Korea. With the constant struggle between the democratic faction of the South vs. the Commies of the North, it's only logical that the most popular film of the region would be a mind-bending blend of brain-splattering violence and unrequited love. Shiri, directed by Kang Je-Gyu, is just that; a Hollywood-style big bang action/romance and Korea's highest grossing film ever. And if that last sentence set alarms off in your head well, it should.

The film's giddy opening depicts a badass female operative, Lee Bang-hee, training to become an assassin for a North Korean militant group. She's head and shoulders above the rest of her compatriots and is sent down South to blow the noggins off her people's political enemies. And while two South Korean secret agents are on her trail, they've got bigger fish to fry. The same militant commandos have stolen a batch of CTX; an explosive that looks just like water, but packs a humongous punch. And to make matters worse, while our two heroes are trying to stop the terrorists from blowing up a soccer match intended to reunite the two countries, a mole is leaking information to Bang-hee, who is turning the agent's friends into bloody piles of brains and goo.

Though this should all be rock 'em-sock 'em fun, the end result is all too predictable. Director Je-Gyu throws a lot of stuff on the screen, but the central mystery is built around the identity of Lee Bang-hee--which unfortunately is easily figured out within the first quarter of the film. Another misstep is the violence, which God knows I don't have a problem with as long as it's artfully done. In Shiri, it isn't. Limbs are blown off and strawberry jam is thrown on victim's faces, but it's not fun as depicted violence should be; it's just gross. And while I'm happy the Korean film industry is coming into its own, there's no reason to applaud the weak-ass efforts of a Hollywood knock-off that plays like a Chuck Norris movie.