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Shiri (1999)

쉬리, Swiri

genre: Action, Romance
country: South Korea
SHIRI is a big budget flick from Korea that rips into the conventions of the Hollywood action movie with glee, mixing throat-tightening romance with Teflon-hard action to create the kind of heartbreaking blockbuster that Hollywood long ago forgot how to make. It's not an art movie a la CROUCHING TIGER, HIDDEN DRAGON, but a good old-fashioned action flick where the engine's maxed-out, the needle's in the red, and the characters stand to lose something much more than their lives.

Locked in a fragile d?ente with its famine-wracked, communist neighbor to the North, South Korea lives in a state of constant national emergency. It is policed by a task force of special agents whose personal lives have withered and died as they root out infiltrators and sleeper agents, rush from crisis to calamity, pursue rumors of war and chase terrorists who vanish like ghosts. One particular phantom, a female North Korean sniper named Hee, has led agents Ryu (Han Suk-Gyu) and Lee (Song Kang-Ho) through a nightmare of burnt corpses and bloody crime scenes for ten years before suddenly vanishing. One year later she resurfaces, and with her comes a squad of North Korean commandos who have infiltrated Seoul and master-minded the theft of an experimental explosive.

A whirlwind of fear and paranoia engulfs the city as civilian targets are bombed and Agents Lee and Ryu chase an enemy who is always one charred and blackened step ahead of them. As Agent Lee is pulled in two directions by his fragile fianc?, Hyun, and the dead-eyed terrorist, Hee, the personal becomes the political and in the blink of an eye affairs of the political and in the blink of an eye affairs of the heart become affairs of state.

Good people and bad politics, ideals and extremism, suicide bombers and special agents, slam into one another like hyper-charged electrons in a particle accelerator, as SHIRI strips our nerves raw and sets our blood boiling.

Whip smart and lightening fast, SHIRI gives more - more action, more romance, more style - than anything out in the multiplexes this winter, going toe-to-toe with bigger, clunkier, more muscle-bound movies and beating them to the mat in minutes. Brains buzzing, hearts broken, nerves drained and spent, you'll stagger out of SHIRI wondering why you've been wasting your time with all those other movies this month. And when's the last time an action movie made you say that?
Yu Jung-Won is a special secret agent of O.P, the national secret intelligence service. When the boss of the weapon smuggler, Lim Bong-Ju, who offered an important information to him, is shot, Yu Jung-Won and his colleague Lee Jang-Kil presume that the offender is Lee Bang-Hi, the shooter of the Special Eighth Corps. They find out that Lee Bang-Hi was trying to obtain the liquid bomb CTX of new material developed by the Agency for Defense Development, while they are investigating the background of Lim Bong-Ju. On the other hand, Park Mu-Young who infiltrated from the North and the agents of the Special Eighth Corps succeed in capturing CTX which is sending to the corp headquarters. Yu Jung-Won and Lee Jang-Ki chase for it, but they can just save their lives. They suspect each other because they guess that there is a spy inside of O.P. In this confused situation, Yu Jung-Won is going to get married to Myeong-Hyeon after one month, but his marriage warns another unhappiness. Yu Jung-Won disguises his standing to Myeong-Hyeon and he never tells to her that he loves her. He promises her to travel together when he finishes with this work. After that he chases after Lee Bang-Hi. Finally, Yu Jung-Won takes action by himself giving a false information to the director Ko and Lee Jang-Kil...
Production Note
Even before it opened SHIRI was a risk.

South Korean director Kang Je-Gyu's previous movie, a time traveling fantasy romance, was a hit but SHIRI had been rewritten twelve times. The cast was loaded with stars and the female lead was fresh off a popular TV miniseries but the budget was the highest to date for a Korean movie (nearly $5 million), and principle sponsor Samsung was watching its performance closely. And, of course, the biggest risk of all was the topic: SHIRI is about reunification with North Korea.

North and South Korea both dream of reunification, but since 1953 they've been fighting a bitter cold war. North Korea, wracked by starvation and strangled by ideology, has dug secret tunnels into South Korea; assassinated South Korean cabinet ministers; hijacked South Korean vessels (the crews usually commit mass suicide); and kidnapped numerous South Korean citizens (including Shin Sang-Ok, Korea's greatest 60's film director). South Korea, alarmed by its Northern brethren, keeps a tight lid on political movements, arresting thousands of students whom it views as socialist sympathizers and spending millions chasing down every real and perceived threat to its national security.

And here came an action movie that takes place against this volatile backdrop. To make matters worse, it gave a voice and a face to North Korean politics, humanizing the previously demonized. The last director to attempt this feat was imprisoned for treason in 1956. Everyone predicted that Kang had a flop on his hands: a huge, highly anticipated, super-expensive flop.

Everyone was wrong.

People turned out in droves to see SHIRI. Quickly becoming the most-watched movie in Korean history, SHIRI beat every American and Korean movie at the box office -- it was a phenomenon the likes of which no one had ever seen. By the end of the year, one in seven Koreans had seen SHIRI. That's a ratio most American producers can only dream of (it would mean a domestic US gross of over $250 million). SHIRI went on to be the first (and highest-priced) Korean film sold to Japan, and one of the few Korean films to be sold to Hong Kong. The movie took number one at the box office in both countries. Additionally, SHIRI launched a nation-wide craze for the "kissing gurami", fish featured in the film, and is now glowingly and repeatedly cited on South Korea's National Intelligence Service page. Finally, not only did North Korean leader Kim Jong Il request a stolen print be sent to him for viewing, but the South Korean government arranged a free screening of the movie for all foreign diplomats stationed in Korea.

More Information
Duration: 124mins
Released: Feb 13, 1999

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Production: Kang Je-Gyu Films
Distribution: Samsung Pictures, Samuel Goldwyn Films

Format: 35mm Film
Sound Mix: Dolby Digital, DTS, SDDS
Color: Color
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Items (6)

DVD $44.98

Poster $54.98

Used VHS $19.98

VCD $19.98