Nowhere to Hide (1999)

Highly stylized, impressive Korean cop thriller. Spectrum DVD Korean R3 2-disc set, includes Original, and shorter International releases.

The Film

Korea - A man is brutally put to the sword in a drug related killing. Two homicide officers, Detectives Woo and Kim (Dong-Kun Jang) are put on the case. Although not quite the odd-couple, Woo is prepared to go to any lengths to solve the case, and break every rule in the book, while Kim is the voice of reason. Working their way through the criminal underworld, they eventually identify the killer as Chang Sungmin, but finding and catching him proves to be hard and costly for both concerned.

Although sounding like a standard American buddy-cop film, Nowhere to Hide stays clear of the genre cliches. Although Woo and Lee are often mismatched, and Lee often has to stop Woo's violent 'questioning' of the criminals, they have seemingly been working together for a while and are not brought together just for this operation as in so many buddy-cop films. The characters are well written, and the storyline flows effectively between the different set-pieces, although often without explanation of what has gone on in the gaps. The script, penned by director Myung-se Lee, is generally light hearted and fun; decently paced it has an inevitable but exciting climax. However, the film is let down when the script tries to include some more serious topics - Kim is distressed when he kills a knifeman and becomes very upset, but this is cleared up by a snowball fight - Myung-se Lee would have been better keeping the film light hearted, or making it serious throughout, his attempts to mix and match are the main negative points of the script.

Stylistically, Nowhere to Hide has everything going on... From the grainy black and white opening sequence, to the slow motion fightscenes and strobe lighting nightclub interior, almost every other scene in the film has some sort of digital stylisation present. Fortunately, this near continual use of the effects is less jarring than more infrequent use; the random occurences suggest that Myung-se Lee doesn't seem to be making any sort of point with the use of slow motion or black and white, just using them for effect. Overall, it is quite subjective whether or not you will enjoy the effects, or just find them highly irritating - personally I felt they elevated the film from the gritty cop-dramas we've seen too many of, and pushed it into the world of cinema fantasy. Production values for the film are very strong, it was the second highest grossing Korean film of the year, and the sets and effects all look good. The soundtrack is a mix of BeeGees, Korean pop music, light classical sounds, and oddly a Spaghetti Western style theme that crops up on occasion, it suits the film well enough.

Overall, whether you like Nowhere to Hide or not will depend on how well you can put up with the frequent stylization effects - whether you think it is clever editing, or just a director let loose with a special effects module. The storyline is not revolutionary, but far enough removed from the cliche buddy-cop films to keep it interesting.

In Brief

Anyone famous in it? Dong-Kun Jang went on to headline Korean war film Taegukgi (2004).
Directed by anyone interesting? Myung-se Lee - has done nothing else of note.
Any violence? Some action packed fight scenes.
Any sex? No.
Who is it for?
Has a general appeal. Fans of modern Asian cinema, especially action/cop films should enjoy.
Good soundtrack? Very mixed track, includes "Holiday" from Bee Gee's as well as Korean tracks, fits well.


This 2-disc Korean DVD includes the original and international cuts of the film. The international cut is missing about 12 minutes, mostly of non-plot scenes, and flows a little faster, but does not change the plot particularly - although unless you want to watch the film dubbed you are unlikely to watch the shorter cut. The English subtitles on the film are okay, although the translation is notably poorer in the scenes not present in the international cut. Although there is a long list of extra features, most of them are very brief, and a good making-of documentary would have been preferable.
Visuals Original Aspect Ratio - 1.85:1 widescreen. Anamorphically enhanced. Colour.
The disc is strong visually, good colours, some light print damage is evident in certain scenes.
Audio Original cut includes Korean language, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 surround sound
International cut includes Korean, Japanese and English dubs, Dolby Stereo.
Subtitles Original cut includes English, Chinese and Japanese.
International cut includes English, Spanish, Japanese and French.
Run-timeMain Features - Original version: 1h 51m 55s  International cut:  1hr 40m 25s
Extras The discs include:
  • Two original theatrical trailers - letterboxed (1m 53s + 2m 28s)
  • Four international trailers - letterboxed (1m 42s + 1m 44s + 1m 47s + 1m 49s)
  • Bee Gee's 'Holiday' music video edited from the film (2m 53s).
  • Bee Gee's 'Holiday' live onstage performance (1m 42s).
  • 'Somewhere to Hide' - composite background shots of the filming of selected action sequences, no dialogue. (7m 12s)
  • 'Actor's Chat' - on camera interviews with three leading cast, unsubtitled Korean. (7m 49s)
  • Manually scrolling gallery of promotional and behind the scenes shots from the film.
  • 'CG vs. final cut' - sequence showing some subtle digital effects inserted into the film, no dialogue. (1m 38s)
  • Korean language onscreen filmography of three leading cast and director.
  • Images of international DVD covers.
  • 'Scenes Edited International Version' - scenes cut from the international version, letterboxed, unsubtitled, no additional dialogue. (5m 39s)
  • Fold-out insert, information on director/actions/production. Korean language.
Packing Fold-out hardboard digipack. Includes insert.
Region Region 3 (Asia) - NTSC
Menus Mostly English language, easy to navigate.
Other regions? Various single disc international releases, containing International cut of the film.
This DVD is the best release of the film thus far.
Cuts? Both versions of the film are included. The original cut, and an international cut that was shown overseas - this runs 12 minutes shorter, and is missing a few non-essential scenes cut for pacing rather than violence.



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All text in this review written by Timothy Young - 18th July 2005/12th March 2006.
Text from this review not to be used without authorization.

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