Synopsis : During transportation from the Philippines to South Korea, a group of dangerous criminals come together to stage a coordinated escape attempt. As the escape escalates into a bloody and all-out mutiny, the escapees and their foreign allies wage a brutal campaign of terror against the special agents aboard the ship.
Gender: Action, Mystery & Suspense
original language: Korean
Director: Kim Hong-sun
Writer: Kim Hong-sun
Release date (theaters): Limited
Distributor: Well Go USA Entertainment
Exclusive interview with writer/director Kim Hong-sun
Q: In your original script, you tackled various genres. Is there a similar story of transporting criminals to Korea? What was the genesis of this movie?
HSK: It is my original creation. However, there are two elements that are based on real events and historical facts. You see in the prologue that there are these criminals who were extradited from the Philippines to Korea and arrived at Seoul International Airport. Those things happened. The bombing was fictional, that was my creation. Furthermore, the scientific experimentation that occurred during Korea’s colonial era in the 1930s and 1940s is based on historical facts.
Q: You shot in two places, Busan, South Korea, and the Philippines, Manila. Did you use any Filipinos for the crew? If so, how much did they support its production?
HSK: Actually, it wasn’t just Busan. I used various places in Korea, including Seoul, Incheon, and Tanwon, etc. For the scenes that happened in the Philippines, they are not made there. Due to Covid-19, we couldn’t go there. So we shot those scenes in Singapore and then used computer graphics to make it look like the Philippines.
Q: The character Jong Du, played by Seo In-Guk, was very violent: he would bite off an ear, slowly stab the heart, and urinate on the corpse. Did you get inspiration for the character from other movies, like horror or medical movies?
HSK: I can’t say that I have a specific inspiration for Jong Du’s character. But I have seen many films as a director, of course. And I have these favorite movies of mine. I love “Serendipity” [Peter Chelsom, 2001]its [in the] romantic gender. I also love “Amores Perros” [Alejandro G. Iñárritu, 2000]”City of God” [Fernando Meirelles and Kátia Lund, 2002]and “Training Day” [Antoine Fuqua, 2001]. Those are three of my favorite movies. It can be said that I was collectively inspired by those films.
My character, Jong Du, even though he is very, very cruel and violent, is based on reality, which means that he had no reference when he first tried to break free from those shackles and handcuffs. What could he do? He could use his own teeth to bite off a policeman’s ear so that he completely loses the ability to defend himself against him.
Jong Du kills to live, that’s his philosophy. He looks very cruel, but then again, he has been exposed to violence for a long time, ever since he was a teenager. He was used to this kind of violence. It is part of his life.
If you talk about urinating on the corpse, it was an expression of the idea that “We are men, and as a man it is a symbolic act, as in, ‘My task is finished, it is not the beginning. We are at the end of this whole pass. Okay, I’m here, I’ve finished the task.’ He wanted to release the ending feeling of him: “I am finally free”.
Q: There are so many gory sequences throughout the movie. Some of the characters are stabbed multiple times, some have been shot. [You said that] 2.5 tons of blood were used for the film. You also said that you could only film so many takes. How did you work with the makeup team to create the gory sequences?
HSK: First of all, I thank my special effects team, the SFX team, and the makeup team. They really worked hard. We couldn’t just do take after take after take, so it was limited. I set a limit on the number of takes we could [shoot]. To make up for that, we did a lot of rehearsals without involving blood.
Even if you are very strict about all these things, sometimes you still have to do reps. We call them “NG” for bad scenes. In that case, you have to clean the blood quickly to move on to the next shot. In fact, we had everyone, not just the production crews, but also the lighting and camera crews, and the actors as well. They all got involved and worked together to clean up the blood. So we start again. Having even the actors as part of the cleaning crew is probably only possible because it’s Korea. Korean actors would do that.
Q: This movie initially starts out as a crime drama, a cops vs. criminals action movie. Then it’s about a monster or zombie character and that becomes a horror movie. Switch across many genres. How did you maintain its consistency?
HSK: You are right. Actually, some audience members love these mixed-genre transitions. Others say, “Hmm, I don’t like it.” I divided the film into three genres. It starts as a crime-action [film], then it becomes a creature horror movie, and then a sci-fi action movie. But to maintain consistency, [I used] two elements First, there was the backdrop: the ship, the Frontier Titan, because the entire sequence takes place on that ship. That helped maintain consistency.
The second was that we had multiple lead actors, and some of them changed. They reappear, disappear and then die. But I didn’t kill everyone. Some of them still go all the way. So having main characters until the very end helped maintain consistency. The thing about the audience is that some people are okay with mixing genres and some aren’t. That’s something I have to think about. I’m thinking about it for my next project. As a director, I like to mix genres, so maybe I’ll mix them again. I also like ensemble casts rather than just having one or two lead actors. So yeah, that’s something I must [figure out] for my next project.
Q: This movie was shown as part of Midnight Madness. [program] at the Toronto International Film Festival. How was the reception?
HSK: It was very nice. Because the reception was so enthusiastic and warm, he encouraged us. We absorb a lot of energy, not only me, but also my cast members and production teams. The love they gave us was enormous.
Q: The monster character was initially a soldier who was detained by the Japanese army. “Kimono Project” means a monster project in Japanese cinema. Was there any inspiration to create this character from Japanese monsters, perhaps as a tribute to the Japanese monster genre?
HSK: Actually, I love Japanese toys. As for Japanese cinema, Kitano Takashi is one of my favorite directors.
Q: “Violent Cop” is your first movie.
HSK: Yes, that’s the movie I like among the Japanese movies he directed. I like Japanese toys like Masked Rider and Gundam, things like that. The creation of the Alpha character is based on my research of historical documents and information. For example, I read that during World War II, Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan experimented on human bodies. They stitched up the eyelids to find out when real sight would return. Or sometimes they implanted another person’s cells into another [person’s] Body. They did lobotomies using an ice pick. That kind of things. Having read all these historical documents, he got me thinking. What would happen if a human is subjected to this type of experimentation for a long time? How would it turn out? What would he become after all these things were done to him? That’s where he started.
One more thing. If you’ve ever wondered why Alpha makes that “kuhn kuhn” noise when she walks, it’s because [of how he was made]. You remember the blueprint for his design in the movie. His back, spine, hips and thighbones are made of tungsten because I read that tungsten was used in weapons during the war. Since Alpha was designed as an infantryman, he doesn’t have to be quiet. Also, the tungsten will protect you – bullets will ricochet instead of penetrating. That’s why he makes that noise. So using tungsten on his body makes a lot of sense.
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Here is the trailer for the movie..