UNDOING- Review

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Stylistically shot and emotionally charged, “Undoing”, is the next Asian film noir in line for Korean-American Director Chris Chan Lee, nine years after his first, “Yellow”. Centering around Sam Kim’s (Sung Kang) year-long absence, he returns to Los Angeles hard-pressed to make right for things done wrong in his past.
We open with the death of his best friend in L.A.’s Koreatown. Joon is a small time drug dealer- Joon (Leonardo Nam) caught up in a big time mess. Sam who inadvertently finds himself in the middle of a drug deal gone bad, quickly leaves both body and car off the major highway.
Returning from Asia a year later, Sam with only reconciliation on his mind, buries his friend and takes a road of vengeance in order to avenge his death. Weighed down heavily by guilt, he soon becomes entangled with an old flame he left behind (who is still upset he left her), Vera (Kelly Hu) who has been since working as a waitress for a guy name Randall (Jose Zuniga) who is in love with her. Torn between both the debt she must payback to Randall and the draw Sam still has on her, Vera becomes caught in the spiral which pulls at Sam.
Sam also reunites with an old mentor/gangster Don Osa (Tom Bower) who is his guardian angel for most of the film. As Sam struggles to clean the slate of his past, he becomes more and more embroiled in memories of past events, which he eventually succumbs to.
His struggle is to make peace with himself and those he left behind while battling inner demons which seek to pull him deeper in the dark world he left. Sam is in a void and fights to take his place in the world after a year of being away.
Between the multitude of plotlines and the slow moving story, “Undoing”, has its moments where you can be immersed in the characters plight or dilemma. The story starts off with slick storytelling and interesting cinematography, then steadily becomes a rollercoaster of both high and low points. Overuse of some cinematic techniques deterred from the actual storytelling in the end.
At other points in the film, dialogue can be so bland, you just don’t care. Secondary characters can at times seem more rounded than main characters. Performances lack luster save for Hu, Wong and Nam who add rich performances to the story.
Unfortunately, the film is quite short which doesn’t help the need for further character development on characters we wish to see more of. Ironically, because of the pace of the film, it also has the feeling of being entirely too long. While have some appealing moments, its drawbacks quickly drown out these positive aspects.

* * 1/2
Weak: 1 Star   Average: 2 Stars   Good: 3 Stars   Very Good: 4 Stars   Excellent: 5 Stars

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Tobe R. Roberts

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