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In Korean With English And Chinese Subtitles
Director: Song Hae-Sung
Cast: Song Seung-Heon, Joo Jin-Mo, Kim Kang-Woo, Jo Han-Sun
RunTime: 2 hrs 3 mins
Released By: Clover Films & Cathay-Keris Films
Rating: NC-16 (Violence)
Official Website:

Opening Day: 31 December 2010


A BETTER TOMORROW tells the story of Hyuk (Joo Jin-Mo), who lives the fast life as a high-ranking mobster in the port city of Busan, South Korea with his closest pal, fellow mobster Lee Young-Chun (Song Seung-Heon). Though Hyuk seems to be on top of the world, he is haunted by the memory of leaving behind his younger brother Chul (Kim Kang-Woo) and mother as they attempted to flee into South Korea from North Korea. Hyuk's mother was beaten to death while Chul was imprisoned after they were caught by North Korean authorities.

In a set-up, Hyuk travels to Thailand for a meeting with Thai gangsters, and is caught by the police and imprisoned. Three years later, Hyuk is released from prison and travels back to Busan, to find his younger brother Chul now a high-ranking police officer. Hyuk tries to earn back the trust and love of his younger brother, but abandonment and betrayal are hard things to forget.

Things come to a head when Young-Chun pulls Hyuk into doing one last gig for the gang. It happens to be the case that Officer Chul is in charge of, and the three brothers meet again one final time.

Movie Review:

One has moved on to Hollywood to take on roles like a king and a pirate captain, one continues to be one of Hong Kong’s greatest veteran actors, while one leaves behind thousands of mourning fans after his suicide in April 2003. But what remain in our hearts are the strongly felt emotions of brotherhood, loyalty and righteousness. Oh, and there’s also the memory of how cool we looked donning those Alain Delon shades worn by Mark “Gor” Lee in John Woo’s A Better Tomorrow (1986), one of the most iconic movie characters ever created in Hong Kong cinema.

Yes, Chow Yun-Fat, Ti Lung and Leslie Chung’s lives have taken shape differently since the film’s phenomenal success some 20 odd years ago, but its cultural impact can still be felt today. And that is why fans of the original would be very interested to find out how Song Hae-Sung’s Korean remake will compare with the original classic.

The story takes place in the Southern Korean port city of Busan, where mobsters rule and lead high and mighty lives. The protagonist is an influential gangster, who is also refugee from North Korea, and is a tormented soul who is haunted by the younger brother he left behind. His partner and best friend is a suave and loyal fellow gang member who takes things into his hands after a deal goes wrong. That is just the beginning of the story, because things get played up after three years, when the duo meet again – this time with the younger brother who has become a police, and the traitor who betrayed their trust.

The four Korean actors in the spotlight sure have big shoes to fill. Taking on the big brother role is Joo Jin-Mo (200 Pounds Beauty), whose quiet and reassuring presence which results in a decent performance. This is aligned with Ti’s portrayal in the original. Heartthrob Song Seung-Heon (So Close) is probably the one receiving the most attention as he tries his best to swagger his way through like Chow in the original. Given his existing fame, he will be the one winning all the fans, together with his nice suits and shades. We empathize with Kim Gang-Woo’s (Le Grand Chef) younger brother role, as he goes through a journey of hurt and angst. Of course, it also reminds us of the deceased Cheung’s screen charisma as he played the idealistic policeman in the original. The foursome is rounded up by Jo Han-Sun, who puts the slime in the betrayer character. This role was played by Waise Lee in the original.

We’d be lying if we said we didn’t compare. It is without doubt that this remake will not live up to the multi award winning original. Much as we would like to commend the cast’s performances, the cooler than cool persona put up by the good looking actors do not seem to be anything more than a smart approach to win more female fans for the Korean popular culture.

The scriptwriters should be given credit for updating the original screenplay a little, incorporating elements like the tension between North and South Korea, as well as faster cars and more powerful ammunition. However, the pacing feels unfocused, with the sometimes sluggish plot development, clocking a total runtime of 123 minutes for the movie.

Do not be mistaken that this is not a movie you should avoid, because the high octane showdowns promise adrenaline rushes that will set your pulses racing. Thing do not go too wrong, with Woo serving as executive producer, alongside his long time friend and favoured producer Terence Chang. There is plenty of bloodshed and violence, earning the film a NC16 rating. This is pure popcorn entertainment; just don’t expect it to go down cinema history as a classic like the original film did.

Movie Rating:

(Definitely not an improvement to the original, this Korean remake still does its job of entertaining the masses)

Review by John Li


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