This Week in South Korean Film - 12/2/2020

Calls, Chinese, and Cats

With no movement at the South Korean box office save for some small independent releases, The Call has thoroughly dominated the movie conversation in South Korea this week and will likely continue to do so into the next. The Netflix picture has ranked number one in South Korea ever since its release on FlixPatrol. It’s been no slouch in the international market either, ranking number six on the international FlixPatrol chart as of this writing with an improved ranking in nearly every region thanks to positive word-of-mouth. My own review can be read here. The short version is that yes, The Call is very good and also try not read the Netflix description because it’s filled with unnecessary spoilers.

Lest you mistake me for a hype man, I should note that The Call isn’t doing quite as well as it could be. #ALIVE, by contrast, was the outright worldwide leader during its initial Netflix release. This disappoints me somewhat, as I was not particularly impressed with #ALIVE but in addition to having a more easily marketable concept #ALIVE also had the benefit of a less competitive release window. The Call doesn’t just have to contend with commercial Christmas releases, there’s a number of other slick films that only just came out competing for similar audiences.

Back to the South Korean market. Of the few new movies opening this week, I’ll spotlight Dragon Inn Part 1 mainly because I was invited to a press screening for it. The action movie centers around a crimefighting team that operates out of a Chinese black noodle restaurant. It’s very unsubtly intended for the domestic on demand streaming market, with an unremarkable plot, unknown actors with surprisingly impressive energy and obvious confidence that a sequel will acquire the necessary funding to go into production, assuming it hasn’t already. My review for it was fairly snarky. This has apparently earned it far more likes than my far more glowing review for The Call despite having far fewer pageviews. That’s the kind of review both movies deserved for what it’s worth.

Our Cat is another movie which I can confidently say got the review it deserved. Many independent films from earlier this year are being rereleased in theaters just to maintain variety at the multiplex. There’s no obvious reason as to why certain movies are being selected and not others. Our Cat in particular just reads like a feature length version of the popular South Korean documentary TV show Animal Farm. Cat documentaries or even cat films have become a fairly regular fixture in South Korean film, most likely because they’re reliable enough performers in the domestic streaming market that they can always get funding.

And that’s all for this week. Be sure to let me know if any particular parts of this newsletter grabbed your attention.