No Tears for the Dead (2014)


If you want to know why I have my head stuffed so far up the South Korean movie industry's well-groomed ass these days, look no further than Jeong-beom Lee's No Tears for the Dead. It's the kind of thoughtful, well-balanced action movie Hollywood tried to make before it began suckling at the swollen teat of the comic book industry. And while I don't have anything against superheroes or flicks based on comic books, it's just not the sort of thing I'm in the mood for these days. Instead of watching overblown, overhyped motion pictures based on corny morons in funny costumes doing ridiculous things for three hours, I'd rather watch a movie about a hitman who doesn't want to kill anyone else. Yes, I realize how impossibly stupid I sound right now. I never said I wasn't a fat, hairy hypocrite.

Here's the story in a nutshell: After seasoned hitman Gon (Dong-gun Jang) puts a bullet in a little girl during an assignment, he decides he's done with the hired assassin business. However, his boss has other plans in mind for him. Some South Korean douchebag wants the little girl's mother killed, and Gon discovers he's the guy who has to do the dirty deed. Otherwise, he's going to end up dead. So he decides to head back to Seoul to do the job, but he keeps dragging his feet. The smarmy prick who hired Gon isn't too happy that the assassin isn't pulling the trigger, so our hero finds himself stuck between an automatic weapon a hard place. Does he end the poor woman's life? Should he toss caution to the wind and take out his friends and fellow assassins? Who knew that being a killer came with so many problems?

Jeong-beom Lee previously directed the phenomenal 2010 action/thriller The Man from Nowhere, another film about a guy with a certain set of sinister skills who takes on impossible odds to destroy a group of dastardly individuals. It's an incredibly smart, insanely gripping flick, but it has absolutely nothing on No Tears for the Dead. Although we've seen the "hitman with a heart of gold" story numerous times throughout the decades, the emotional weight anchored to the picture's plot adds tons of intensity to the handful of well-choreographed set pieces sprinkled throughout. The final 45 minutes are brutal; it's been a very long time since I've seen that much bloodshed in a modern action movie that isn't from Japan. You'll predict how this one's going to end long before the finale shows up, but it's more about the journey than the destination. God, that sounds so stupid and cliche, but it's true.

No Tears for the Dead deserves some attention from any self-respecting action fan.

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