NO TEARS FOR THE DEAD (Lee Jeong-beom). Subtitled. 116 minutes. Opens Friday (June 20). For venues and times, see listings. Rating: NNN
Die Hard, Bourne and John Woo are just some of the influences weighing on No Tears for the Dead. This Korean hit man thriller often feels like a derivative attempt to mimic superior offshore action films, but writer/director Lee Jeong-beom ambitiously (if not entirely successfully) makes that part of the point.
The cultural exchange between Seoul, Hong Kong and Hollywood shows up in the multicultural cast, several English-speaking Korean actors and even Sade on the soundtrack. The same transnationality is embodied in main character Gon (an effectively ghoulish-looking Jang Dong-gun), a Korean born Triad assassin who had a tragic upbringing in the States and returns like the prodigal son to his homeland for one last mission.
Gon is a bit mopey, but he has his reasons. He accidentally kills a little girl in the prologue, and his assignment in Seoul involves rubbing out that very child's mother. As a result, the first hour of the film is heavy on the tears, before Gon inevitably turns on his employers and invites more American assassins with big guns to Korea.
The plot gets even more convoluted, and several dim-witted moments make it difficult to appreciate the movie's finer points - specifically the appealing cast and some grizzly action directed with verve and panache.