[Herald Review] ‘No Tears for the Dead’ a sad story of a hitman

By Korea Herald
  • Published : Jun 2, 2014 - 20:36
  • Updated : Jun 2, 2014 - 21:25

Hitmen make good subject matter for films, catching the eyes of moviegoers for years and spawning diverse characters.

While foreign films have created a spate of famous assassins such as Leon, Nikita and Mr. and Mrs. Smith, Korean films have their hitmen too. Actor Jung Woo-sung bossed an international gang while playing a hitman in 2013 film “Cold Eyes.” A group of four hitmen, two played by top stars Won Bin and Shin Ha-kyun, was comically portrayed in “Guns and Talks” directed by Jang Jin in 2001.

Now, A-list actor Jang Dong-gun has jumped on the assassin wagon, by teaming up with director Lee Jung-beom for “No Tears for the Dead.”

“I wasn’t planning on making an action film about a hitman at first. I wanted to make a movie about a man who is struggling with a traumatic past and conflict. It started from there,” said Lee, best known for revenge film hit “The Man from Nowhere.” 
Jang Dong-gun stars in the movie “No Tears for the Dead.” (Two Rabbit)

Gon, played by Jang, is a member of a transnational organized crime mob, who makes a fatal mistake when he kills a child during a mission. Cornered by guilt and drenched in shame, Gon no longer wants to be a hitman, but his boss gives him one last mission to correct his mistake.

In bitter irony, his last target is Mo-kyung, played by actress Kim Min-hee, a successful fund manager and the mother of the dead child. Gon arrives in Korea and follows her to kill her, but finds himself in a difficult predicament. Mo-kyung now lives a shattered life in sorrow, relying on alcohol and drugs to get by since her daughter’s death. Gon agonizes and faces a life or death choice ― to follow the order to kill his target or to risk his own life at the price of redemption for his past.

Scenes of daring daytime gunfights in the middle of the city are impressive in light of the scale, weapons and detailed action. However, the flow of the plotline is not smooth enough to understand the real motive behind Gon’s actions. Whether his inward agitation is prompted by sympathy for Mo-kyung or a sense of guilt is not clearly described.

Yet in this hard-edged and blood-spattered action movie, Jang’s depth of expression is noteworthy. In order to hide his tortured inner self, which is the result of a deprived childhood and abandonment by his parents, he has taken strenuous efforts to accentuate his cold-heartedness and ferocity. As suggested by the Korean title, which literally means “Crying Man,” it is none other than Jang who is a crying man. Internally, he cries though shedding not a single teardrop. He expresses anger and grief at the same time very well, which makes his character appear even sadder.

Kim Min-hee’s sadness permeates through her sophisticated and subtle acting. Her emotions are revealed well through her body language in expressing her grief in the loss of her beloved child, such as when her hands shake as she strokes a picture of her daughter saved in her phone.

Director Lee’s status as the maker of the highest grossing Korean film of 2010 will be tested this Wednesday when “No Tears for the Dead” premieres in theaters.

By Ahn Sung-mi (sahn@heraldcorp.com)