Yasuo Hasegawa

Seoul (2002, Nagasawa Masahiko)

An action slash thriller requires a couple things… action set pieces and, well, thrills. Seoul‘s got a couple action set pieces, beginning and end, and not much in the way of thrills. There’s a mystery angle and there are scenes with the cops inspecting crime scenes, but there’s no real investigation at any point. Both the main characters sit and deliberate on the case at hand, but never come to any realization until, obviously, the last possible moment. It’s okay, actually, since Seoul‘s a fish out of water, cop comedy… kind of like a tame Beverly Hills Cop.

Young Japanese cop Nagase Tomoya, who’s all exuberance and little else. I suppose he’s a good shot, as the lack of investigative success certainly doesn’t show any detection prowess. The boss in Korea–so, following the simile, Japan is Detroit and Korea is Beverly Hills–is played by Choi Min-su, who’s the haunted, seasoned cop who’s seen it all. Will the goofy cop make the haunted one laugh again? No. In fact, the film never really gives in on the Choi as a hard-ass front, which was surprising until I realized there wasn’t time for them to do it, since the film’s focus for the first hour is on Nagase hanging out with a Korean noodle-peddler and his nephew. There’s also some hints at investigation and a lot of comedy, but whatever… the most resonant scenes are the noodle-stand scenes, just because Nagase’s a great lead and those scenes give his character a chance to relax and listen and develop.

Seoul‘s a pleasant experience throughout, it just doesn’t have much going in any particular direction. It’s not action-packed, it’s not a straight comedy, it’s not a mystery. I was expecting a romance, but no, not a romance either. It’s a pleasant package. Choi spends most of the film sitting around and looking grim, when it’s apparent he’s a charismatic actor (which he eventually gets to show off, but it takes a long time).

The end gets long fast, as it gets real self-important being about Japanese and Korean foreign relations (in an earlier scene, while Nagase is waxing on about the same thing, the nephew whacks him in the head with a basketball to shut him up), and it seems in danger of losing the comedic aspect. It doesn’t, but it gets it back in frugal way. But still, it’s a pleasant diversion.



Directed by Nagasawa Masahiko; written by Hasegawa Yasuo; director of photography, Yamamoto Hideo; edited by Okuhara Yoshiyuki; music by Sumitomo Norihito; produced by Kotaki Shohei, Matsuno Hirofumi and Ogoshi Hirofumi; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Nagase Tomoya (Hayase), Choi Min-su (Kim), Kim Ji-yuon (Yun), Jang Hoon (Min-Cheol), Choi Seong-Min (Kang) and Choi Sung (Lee).

The Graduation (2002, Nagasawa Masahiko)

I try not to spoil things here on The Stop Button, but I’m going to make an exception for this film. It’s a fine example of what not to do….

Mayama is a psychology professor at a college. He is socially inept (the closest comparison is Montgomery Clift in Wild River, only more). He does not talk and he’s unable to make decisions. He’s also forty-one. He’s got a girlfriend who wants to marry him, but he hasn’t asked… Then, his long-lost daughter appears, only he doesn’t know she’s his daughter or that he even has one. She’s been stalking him for months, then they finally meet and her influence–while never telling him she’s his daughter–changes his life for the better.

The film’s about the two of them, then pretends to be about him and the girlfriend, invalidating the whole damn point of it. I’m kind of pissed off, not just because I need to get up at 4:30 in the morning and stayed up watching this one, but because it’s a well-made film. The guy who plays Mayama (Tsutsumi Shin’ichi) is amazing. So amazing I looked up his name.

The film just doesn’t know how to end… though I suppose having three screenwriters doesn’t help anything.



Directed by Nagasawa Masahiko; written by Masahiko, Hasegawa Yasuo and Misawa Keiko; director of photography, Fujisawa Junichi; edited by Okuhara Yoshityuki; music by Remedios; production designer, Yoshida Etsuko; produced by Kono Satoshi; released by Toho Company Ltd.

Starring Natsukawa Yui (Izumi), Tsutsumi Shin’ichi (Mayame) and Uchiyama Rina (Asami).

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