January 28, 2012 6 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

The tension between North Korea & South Korea has been intense for some time, but it seems as though a peace accord could be in the near future. But both sides have dissidents of course, with plans to foil any kind of peace, which means the authorities have to take care to police the areas well, but not to go too far and upset the balance. One such militant North Korean faction has decided to take action, hijacking a shipment of CTX, a potent new liquid explosive, as well as dispatching a most lethal female operative. The South Korean intelligence branch has been under attack for some time now, as top agents and officers have been murdered, with the female assassin as the prime suspect, of course. But even as Ryu and Lee, two of South Korea’s best operatives, close in on the assassin, they find themselves just a little too late. So after some key security breaches and information leaks, Ryu and Lee begin to suspect someone in their own division as an informant, but who could it be? Can the mole be ousted, the assassin be stopped, and the potential added tension be cooled before it is too late?

The most popular film in Korean cinema history, including American films released there, Shiri is an action packed, visually charged secret agent adventure. As a frequent viewer of Asian films, I had some doubts here and assumed Shiri would be overly American, but the film still retains Korean themes, which is good news. I do think some plot points are too predictable, but the movie overcomes that with some terrific action sequences, solid performances, and dynamic visuals that help distract us from the film’s lesser points. The gunplay is excellent here and a lot of fun to watch, especially within such a cool storyline, even though the twists are kind of simple to see coming, as I already mentioned. Those expecting a traditional Asian action picture will be taken off guard, as many American action genre conventions are used here, but in truth, I never found them to be poorly used, just kind of unexpected at times. No, Shiri is not a cerebral thriller in any sense of the phrase, but it is a fun action movie with some great production values, so for those interested in a wild ride, Shiri is well worth a spin.

Video: How does it look?

Shiri is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. I’ve seen this film in several DVD renditions and without question, Columbia’s version sports the cleanest, most impressive visual treatment of all them all. I found the black levels to be richer and more accurate here, which means the visuals have a sleek overall appearance. In the same line, this edition features greatly reduced grain and of course, that means contrast is more refined and colors are more natural, which enhances the visuals even more. The print has some minor nicks and such, but looks very, very clean and is better than most Asian imports. In the end, Columbia has lined up a superb visual effort for this disc, terrific work all around.

Audio: How does it sound?

The film’s original Korean soundtrack is preserved via a Dolby Digital 5.1 option, which packs some powerful moments. This track has a lot of range and knows when to drop the hammer, whether it be through the subwoofer or through an assault in the surrounds, this mix kicks when it needs to. I won’t say it keeps pace with elite level power mixes out there, but it deserves a look as a reference disc, at least with a few specific scenes in mind. The ample punch provided never hinders the more subtle sequences however, as dialogue, music, and more restrained audio elements come through in top form also, a great overall audio treatment. The DTS track from the Korean import is missing here, but we are given English and French 5.1 tracks, as well as subtitles in English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese.

Supplements: What are the extras?

This version doesn’t contain all of the extras from the Korean edition, but since that one features no English subtitles on the supplements, it is hard to get much out of the extras there, unless you happen to speak the language yourself. But this disc has some good stuff, including the film’s trailer, the When I Dream music video, and The Making of Shiri, an in depth behind the look at how Shiri was created. This documentary clocks in at around an hour and doesn’t waste a second, as it looks at how the film was funded, the various special effects involved, getting the cast comfortable with guns, and all sorts of other behind the scenes topics. I’d seen this before, but never with English subtitles, so this was a real treat, to be sure.

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