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A view on Blu-ray by Gary W. Tooze

The Yellow Sea aka Hwanghae [Blu-ray]


(Hong-jin Na, 2010)




Review by Gary Tooze



Theatrical: Wellmade Starm

Video: Eureka Entertainment Limited (UK)



Region: 'B' (as verified by the Momitsu region FREE Blu-ray player)

Runtime: 2:20:09.442

Disc Size: 40,173,416,306 bytes

Feature Size: 35,340,619,776 bytes

Video Bitrate: 29.99 Mbps

Chapters: 14

Case: Standard Blu-ray case

Release date: March 26th, 2012



Aspect ratio: 2.35:1

Resolution: 1080p / 23.976 fps

Video codec: MPEG-4 AVC Video



DTS-HD Master Audio Korean 1906 kbps 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1906 kbps / 16-bit (DTS Core: 5.1 / 48 kHz / 1509 kbps / 16-bit)



English (SDH)



Making of Documentary (1:17:00 in 480i)

UK Trailer (1:32 in 480i)

• Korean Trailer (2:06 in 480i)

Teaser trailer (1:18 in 480i)





Description: Gu-nam is a desperate gambler and debt-ridden taxi driver in Yanji City in a region that has adjoining borders to North Korea, China and Russia. His wife fled to South Korea six months earlier and he hasn t heard from her since. In order to repay his debts and find his wife this mild unassuming man accepts a contract killing from hit man Myun-ga.

Crossing the dangerous Yellow Sea to Seoul he seeks out both his target and wife, but soon finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy of lies and betrayal. Before he can fulfil the contract, he witnesses others murder his target. Fleeing the scene, he is not only being pursued by the police, but those responsible.



The Film:

The Chaser director Na Hong-jin returns to deliver this action-packed suspense thriller about a desperate cab driver... who stumbles into a treacherous conspiracy after agreeing to perform an assassination in South Korea. Gu-Nam (Ha Jung-woo) drives a taxi in Yanji City. Located between the borders of North Korea and Russia in Northeastern China, Yanji City is home to nearly 100,000 Chinese-Koreans known as Joseonjok. Six months ago, Gu-Nam's wife traveled to Korea in hopes of earning some extra money. He hasn't heard from her since. In addition, Gu-Nam has lost a great deal of money at mah-jongg. He gets a rare opportunity to get out of debt, however, when he crosses paths with Myun-ga, a hired killer who recruits him for a one-time job in South Korea. Reasoning that he will have the opportunity to search for his wife while he's there, Gu-Nam accepts. But shortly after arriving in South Korea, Gu-Nam is framed for another crime. As he flees from the cops, a vicious crime boss (Cho Seung-Ha), and a determined assassin, the terrified cabdriver realizes he has walked right into a deadly trap. Now, unless Gu-Nam can discover who is behind the conspiracy and why he is being hunted through the streets of Seoul, he may never see his beloved wife again.


Written and directed by Na Hong-jin, “The Yellow Sea” follows Gu-nam as he descends into a nightmare that he helps create. The story takes off in Yanji, the capital of the Yanbian Korean Autonomous Prefecture, a wedge of China that borders North Korea and Russia. Initially, Gu-nam, an ethnic Korean (or chosun-juk), spends his time losing money at mahjongg, driving a cab or passed out in his squalid apartment, where a web of broken glass covering a framed wedding photo of him and his wife hints at the tragic misunderstanding that sets the story in fast, fast motion. His wife has left to find work in South Korea, and Gu-nam, bereft, angry, self-pitying, has built up a debt that he seems unlikely to work or gamble his way out of.

Excerpt from Manohla Dargis at the NY Times located HERE

Image :    NOTE: The below Blu-ray captures were taken directly from the Blu-ray disc.

Eureka's dual-layered, high bitrate, Blu-ray transfer of The Yellow Sea looks strong.  The image quality shows a tight, rich image with deep contrast and lots of depth. The camera is verité kinetic adding to the intensity of the lengthy chases and chilling violence. This Blu-ray is consistent and the visuals range from the emptiness of a dimly-lit room to the bustling activity of Korean streets.  There are plenty of night scenes but digital noise was not a prevalent issue. This Blu-ray cleanly replicates the theatrical appearance as well as the media can support. No complaints.

















Audio :

Very active score exported with a punchy DTS-HD Master 5.1 surround at 1906 kbps. The original music by Young-kyu Jang and Byung-hoon Lee adds a robust flavor to the mix. Heavy effects sounds exist that shoot around the room via the rear speakers. So - good range and depth - the English subtitles don't appear to be removable and my Momitsu has identified it as being a region 'B'-locked.


Extras :

Supplements consist of a lengthy (1 1/4 hours) 'Making of Documentary' in SD that has input from the cast and director in Korean with English subtitles. It seemed excessively long although the initial production details, story analysis, were interesting. There is also a UK Trailer, a Korean Trailer and a Teaser trailer also in 480i.



Gruesome (you may wish to turn your head away a couple of times) but compelling story. The Yellow Sea has that harsh edge that seems to frequently come from modern Asian cinema. This is often excessive. There is plenty to like and entertain and the plot is well realized by the filmmakers. The Blu-ray, audio and video, augments the intensity and it's quite an exhausting ride. Fans of this brand of thriller should be right at home with The Yellow Sea

Gary Tooze

March 24th, 2012




About the Reviewer: Hello, fellow Beavers! I have been interested in film since I viewed a Chaplin festival on PBS when I was around 9 years old. I credit DVD with expanding my horizons to fill an almost ravenous desire to seek out new film experiences. I currently own approximately 9500 DVDs and have reviewed over 5000 myself. I appreciate my discussion Listserv for furthering my film education and inspiring me to continue running DVDBeaver. Plus a healthy thanks to those who donate and use our Amazon links.

Although I never wanted to become one of those guys who focused 'too much' on image and sound quality - I find HD is swiftly pushing me in that direction.

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