South Korean writer-director Yang Woo-seok/양우석 is back with a sequel in name only to his 2017 film, STEEL RAIN, but this time the two lead actors have switched sides in the North-South divide. Although STEEL RAIN 2: SUMMIT isn’t in the same league as, let’s say, PARASITE, it is an enjoyable ride nevertheless.
Under pressure from the Americans to participate in war games along with the Japanese, South Korean President Han Kyeong-Jae (Jung Woo-Sung/정우성, STEEL RAIN) reluctantly agrees, much to the anger of China, who sees the exercise as unproductive in moving towards a nuclear-free Korean peninsula. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, a group of wealthy right-wing Japanese extremists plot to have Japan accidently engage in battle with China, which would throw the American alliance into disarray. A peace summit between Han, U.S. President Smoot (Angus Macfadyen, BRAVEHEART) and North Korean Chairman (Yoo Yeon-Seok/유연석) goes ahead at the North Korean resort town of Wonsan, but when North Korean Supreme Guard Command Chief Park Jin-Woo (Kwak Do-wan/곽도원, STEEL RAIN) stages a coup, the three leaders have to find a way to find common ground in a hurry in order to stop what could become World War III.
There’s a lot going on in the first film’s act with Yang showing audiences on the screen who’s who and what their job title is. (I think we could have figured it out on our own.) Admittedly, it can get to be a bit too much, especially for non-Korean audiences who may not be up to speed on regional politics and already have plenty to read with the subtitles coming fast and furious. Fortunately, once the introductions and exposition are out of the way, the story takes a satiric turn with the arrival of Smoot. With his crass talk, boorish demeanor, extra-long red tie and belly hanging over his belt, you don’t have to be a stable genius to figure out who he’s modelled after. Smoot isn’t the only one with the movie’s funniest lines though. The unnamed North Korean leader, who is slightly younger but much hotter than the real guy, dishes out the insults as good as he gets. In one scene, he chastises the South Korean president for not being as fluent in English as he is. (The real Kim went to an elite private school in Switzerland and it is believed that his English is flawless.) After a second act that features flatulent humour and more, Yang then switches the tone back to drama to remind audiences that his movie is supposed to be a political thriller on board a nuclear submarine during in a once-in-a-century typhoon because… why not? Sadly, though, his attempt to rebuild tension by this point is a wasted effort.
While some South Koreans and MAGA hat-wearing Americans, not to mention the Chinese, may have their feelings hurt given how their leaders are depicted, for the rest of us, STEEL RAIN 2: SUMMIT is a pretty enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours even if the film takes a big swing and misses.
STEEL RAIN 2: SUMMIT opens tomorrow (September 24) in Hong Kong. Who knew détente could be so much fun?
Watch the review recorded on Facebook Live on Friday, September 25th, 8:30 am HK time!
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