‘Stoker’ hot, ‘Last Stand’ not so much
LOS ANGELES and PARK CITY, Utah - The champagne in Seoul was on ice as directors Park Chan-wook and Kim Ji-woon made their Hollywood debuts and the domestic film industry looks to expand the market reach and influence of Korean movies in 2013.
Park’s “Stoker” has been a critical success, but the bubbly isn’t flowing yet. Kim’s “The Last Stand” has received a lukewarm reception, despite featuring Arnold Schwarzenegger in a starring role.
Still, the very fact that Korean directors are working in the film capital of the world is a big plus.
“So far, the two directors’ reputations have been largely limited to those in the film industry or a specific group of moviegoers,” says Lee Nam, an assistant professor of film studies at Chapman University in Orange County, California. “Now that their movies are made through Hollywood studios, the Korean directors are going to reach a wider Western audience.”
While Park and Kim are at the forefront of Korean cinema, their work stands in stark contrast in terms of genre and tone.
Fox Searchlight, a subsidiary of 20th Century Fox, is in charge of producing and distributing Park’s psychological thriller “Stoker” in the United States, while Kim’s action flick “The Last Stand” is produced by Di Bonaventura Pictures and distributed by Lionsgate.
“The Last Stand” has been deemed fun and popcorn-friendly, whereas “Stoker” is widely characterized as an art-house film with a style only Park could pull off.
Park’s English-language feature debut captivated media and critical attention after its screening at the 2013 Sundance International Film Festival that ended last Friday.
Starring Nicole Kidman, Mia Wasikowska and Matthew Goode, “Stoker” delves into the enigmatic relationships among a teenage girl and her mother, and an uncle who moved into their house.
“Stoker” scores an average rating of 8.7 out of 10 from eight critics on the Rotten Tomatoes Web site and 95 percent of the site’s users say they would like to watch the mystery film.
Park and the three leading cast members were surrounded by a throng of reporters and fans after the screening. A similar scene occurred at a Korean Film Council event.
A series of positive reviews followed. Variety’s Guy Lodge praised “Stoker” as “a splendidly demented gumbo of Hitchcock thriller, American Gothic fairy tale and a contemporary kink all Park’s own.”
The Hollywood Reporter said the film is “one of the most artful chillers in ages.”
However, even the first leading role in nearly a decade for Schwarzenegger, the former California governor, has not been enough to generate much excitement about “The Last Stand.”
It has a 60 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 115 reviews, with a consensus that “there’s nothing particularly distinguished about it.”
“Not the most iconic choice for Schwarzenegger to announce that he’s back, but not one that’s completely prefab, either,” said Tom Russo of the Boston Globe.
Others were more critical. “Kim keeps things moving briskly and the members of the strong supporting cast don’t seem to mind that they’re playing flimsy types,” said Christy Lemire of the Associated Press. “Everyone’s just here for a mindless good time.”
The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy said the film “lacks any kind of real distinction.”
The Lionsgate movie earned just $7.2 million over the three-day holiday weekend and ranked 10th on the day of its release, according to Box Office Mojo.
Observers say “The Last Stand” has been overshadowed by Andres Muschietti’s “Mama” and Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.”
Kim’s film is scheduled for release in Korea on Feb. 21. “Stoker” will be released Feb. 28 in Korea and March 1 in the United States.
By Lee Kyung-min, Park Eun-jee [email@example.com]