Natural City (2006)

by | May 1, 2006 | DVD & Blu-ray Video Reviews | 0 comments

Natural City (2006)

Director: Byung-Cheon Min
Studio: Tube Entertainment/Tartan VideoTVD3034
Video: 2.35:1 Enhanced for 16:9 widescreen, color
Audio: DTS 5.1, DD 5.1, Korean
Subtitles: English & Spanish
Extras: The Story of Natural City, Deleted scenes, Cast Interviews, Theatrical trailer, Previews
Length: 113 minutes
Rating: ****

Korean Sci-fi; who would have thought? But then again it’s perfectly appropriate. Their effort has been pegged by some reviewers as the Korean answer to The Matrix, which doesn’t quite fit for me. But others are calling it The Korean Blade Runner, and that seems a better fit – both in the plot involving androids and a detective, and in the simultaneously seedy and high-tech urban environment.  It’s the post-apocalyptic world of the near future – 2080 – and among the advanced technologies are cyborgs (androids, replicants). The male cyborgs seem to be all soldiers who serve one master, and the females are dancers and pleasure-girls. All have a lifespan of only three years. By the way, everybody’s smoking in 2080 like this was a French film.

R and Noma are MPs leading a military effort to stop a revolt by the cyborg soldiers. R is in love with Ria – a cyborg girl he has purchased from a club owner, knowing she is near the end of her lifespan. He secretly takes artificial intelligence chips from the heads of defeated cyborgs to give to a mad doctor who claims he can transfer Ria’s brain to a human donor. R has his eye on a mousy fortune teller/prostitute to be the donor.  (Frankly, I felt R had it backwards – he should have replaced Ria’s brain with the fortune teller’s – because all Ria does besides looking beautiful is mope about thinking how she only has a few hours left with R. And the fortune teller could be a kick if she’d just take a bath and lose the outfit she wears that looks like a castoff from Kevin Costner’s Water World.)

Anyway, there’s major surprises and reverses, and R and Noma end up having to prevent a villainous powerful human from transferring HIS warped brain to all the cyborgs and thus destroying humanity.  The special effects are quite good and the designs of the city and its devastated suburbs up to the best sci-fi imaginings. There are regular appearances of a massive spaceship which takes passengers to a beautiful vacation leisure planet called Koyo. R dreams of taking Ria there but it is not to be. The soundtrack music is fortunately mostly melodic and not all electronic/noise or rock. The fight scenes have the usual kung fu and slowed-down or stopped action in them, while other shots cut so rapidly one has difficulty figuring out who is doing what to whom. Since everything occurs in either rain or nighttime or both, this difficulty is stronger. One element that distinguishes Korean films is blood n’ gore. They can’t seem to get enough of it.  Aside from that, not up to Blade Runner’s standards, but any sci-fi fan will probably have to see this one.  The featurette in the extras illustrates some of the ingenious solutions the filmmakers found to achieve big-time-looking special effects without a Hollywood budget.  But it is rather slow-moving, making the viewer feel a bit like an extra waiting around all day for a 30-second shot.

– John Sunier

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