Sinkhole and Joint are screening as part of the 2021 New York Asian Film Festival that runs Aug. 6 to Aug. 22.
Sinkhole is a midbudget blockbuster from South Korea and a disaster movie in its purest form. From director Kim Ji-hoon, who has dabbled in the disaster genre before (The Tower), the film is about exactly what it says on the poster. When a sinkhole sends an apartment complex in Seoul deep underground, the survivors inside the building struggle to survive until help arrives to rescue them.
The film takes its time setting up its cast of characters and the slowly-building infrastructural problems. Dramatic irony pays some dividends here, with the simple rolling of a marble foreshadowing what the audience already knows is inevitable. This and some clever dialogue make the first act surprisingly funny, endearing us to even seemingly unlikable characters so that when the danger rises we sympathize accordingly.
The disaster portion of the film is thus infused with adequate stakes. And while some of the staging of the more elaborate sequences is a bit awkward (and the business with a giant yellow water reservoir is, logically speaking, pretty confusing), the overall effect of the sunken building is good. All in all, Sinkhole is an entertaining and humorous disaster film.
When Ishigami Takeshi (Ikken Yamamoto) gets out of prison, he concocts a new con. As he sets up a plan to steal user data off of used cell phones and use it scam people out of their money, he finds himself in the middle of multiple mob clans. And when he tries to get out of the game and become an investor in the tech sector, he sees firsthand the ramifications of being involved in the yakuza world.
There is a long history of yakuza films of which I only know the surface. My lack of expertise on the subject precedes me. All the same, Joint is a standout genre picture. It balances complex character motivations occurring at various levels of the criminal underbelly with the thrills of a crime drama. The story may be a keyed down version of a traditional crime narrative, but it nevertheless contains plenty of intrigue and an understated current of tension.
Joint is a compelling film despite its use of one of the oldest cliches in the crime genre. To see a fresh take on the formula of an ex-con wanting out of the crime game is a welcome surprise. And the density of the plot welcomes repeat viewings.
As always, thanks for reading!