The kind of sleek, precisely constructed genre work that’s gone missing from American summer movies.
NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD is yet another addition to an exemplary list of South Korean action thrillers made in the last decade; such titles include THE BERLIN FILE, THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, A BITTERSWEET LIFE, A COMPANY MAN, and THE SUSPECT. I was long excited for this film as soon as I found out it was a follow-up to the same director’s THE MAN FROM NOWHERE, which is one of my all-time favourites.
NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD isn’t quite up there with the standard of the earlier film, but it has its moments. This is an exciting story that mixes superbly-shot, hard-hitting action sequences with a tragic human drama at the core. It’s dark indeed, featuring heartfelt performances from the central actors who are inevitably playing broken characters, and it’s fun to see how the tone shifts from adrenaline-pumping action to gut-wrenching emotion and back again.
The storyline is predictable for the genre: an assassin screws up by failing to take out his intended victim, only to face the wrath of his former employers. The action is blistering, with lightning fast editing and gobbets of grisly violence. But the human drama also draws you in, building to a moving but expected ending. The South Koreans have come up trumps again with this one.
Being considered the ‘new Hong Kong’ for action films.
Ha Jung-woo as Sang-won
Kim Nam-gil as Kyung-hoon
Heo Yool as Yi-na
Kim Shi-A as Myung-jin
Shin Hyun-bin as Seung-hee
Kim Soo-jin as Myung-jin’s mother
Park Sung-woong as Myung-jin’s father
Park Ji-a as Shaman
The action is there, no doubt!
At a restaurant in America, professional hitman Gon quietly interacts with a little girl sitting alone at her table. He then leaves and makes his way to the warehouse behind the restaurant where a man named Ha Yun-guk is making a deal with a group of Russian thugs. Gon kills them all and retrieves Yun-guk’s laptop. Hearing a sound behind the door, he shoots through it, only to realize it is the little girl who had followed him. The girl dies, traumatizing Gon who gets himself drunk to forget the incident.
Gon’s close friend, Chaoz, and his two Columbian teammates, Alvaro and Juan, take Gon back to their boss, a Chinese-American Triad named Dai-Ban. Alvaro punches Gon awake from his drunken stupor. Gon is to go to South Korea to tie up the loose end – the little girl’s mother Choi Mo-gyeong, a risk manager at an investment firm. Gon stabs Alvaro’ right hand in retaliation for punching him, triggering a vendetta within Alvaro. Gon then threatens Dai-Ban to never send men to his home again or he will personally kill him.
At Seoul airport, Gon is received by his local contact, Byun. As he studies Mo-gyeong’s routine, he learns of her visits to her senile mother in a hospital and watches as she mourns her daughter. Gon feels even more guilty and conflicted about his task.
Mo-gyeong is approached by Detective Park from the financial crimes task force. Park reveals that her supervisor, John Lee, is heavily suspected to have ties with organized crimes. Prior to his assassination, Yun-guk had gained access to John Lee’s accounts for money laundering and had begun trying to sell them to the Russian Mob. Park asks Mo-gyeong whether her husband left anything that can implicate John Lee.
Due to the stress of losing her daughter, Mo-gyeong eventually ends up in a hospital. However a Chinese-American street assassin under Dai Ban, named Asing, is sent to eliminate her after he successfully murders the other two “loose ends”. Gon arrives just in time to save Mo-gyeong, fighting off Asing. Asing escapes briefly but tries again to kill her in a parking lot. Gon intercepts Asing and shoots him dead.
As Gon still hasn’t completed his assignment, Dai-Ban sends Chaoz, Juan and Alvaro to South Korea to find him. Chaoz meets a black market American arms dealer in Seoul and quickly kills him and the bodyguard to avoid paying for the firearms. The gang quickly close in on Mo-gyeong’s apartment.
In her apartment, Mo-gyeong finds the file in a pen drive. Park’s subordinate betrays Park, shoots him and takes the drive away. Immediately after giving the drive to John, Park’s subordinate is killed by Byun. Byun’s thugs prepares to kill Mo-gyeong, but Gon warns her with a call. He then intervenes and kills or severely wounds several of them. However, Chaoz and his teammates also arrive at the scene. Juan and Alvaro finish off the remaining thugs. Gon creates a distraction, knocking down Alvaro and engaging in a firefight with both Chaoz and Juan, allowing Mo-gyeong to escape. He promises to reveal the truth about what happened to her daughter. However, Mo-gyeong is captured by a wounded Alvaro.
Gon asks Chaoz to let Mo-gyeong go, but he refuses. Mo-gyeong is taken to the financial building, which is soon surrounded by cops who arrived after receiving a tip from Gon that there is a bomb in the building. Gon ambushes Alvaro and they engage in a fist-fight. Juan arrives to assist Alvaro but accidentally kills him instead as Gon tricks Juan into shooting Alvaro. Juan hunts down Gon in revenge and discovers Gon wounded. Gon manages to kill Juan with an improvised explosive using a microwave.
Meanwhile, Mo-gyeong succeeds in preventing the money transfer to John Lee’s account. Byun stabs John to death as he is fed up with John’s constant abuse of power. At last, Gon battles Chaoz and both get severely wounded. Gon holds Chaoz at gunpoint but spares him, unwilling to kill his close friend.
Byun discovers Mo-gyeong and beats her up. He tries to rape her before she stabs him to death. After a conversation with Chaoz, Gon tells Mo-gyeong she needs to shoot the next person who enters as he is her daughter’s murderer.
Gon himself arrives and is shot by Mo-gyeong. Chaoz arrives soon after and snatches the shotgun from Mo-gyeong. He is about to shoot her when a dying Gon asks him not to. Chaoz holds Gon’s hand as he dies. Mo-gyeong tries to reach out to Gon via radio after realizing Gon accidentally killed her daughter.
A flashback shows Gon’s mother, who abandoned him in the states and killed herself early on in the film, telling him not to cry as they would have a good life once they move to America. However, Gon continues to cry – both as a kid and an adult.
Directed by Lee Jeong-beom
Written by Lee Jeong-beom
Produced by Kim Tae-won
Starring Jang Dong-gun
Cinematography Lee Mo-gae
Edited by Nam Na-yeong
Music by Choi Yong-rak
Distributed by CJ Entertainment
June 4, 2014
Running time 116 minutes
Country South Korea