No Blood, No Tears is the film that Guy Ritchie needs to sit down and watch. When the two hour caper movie is over he can go outside, take Madge by her elderly broken hips and tell her that he's never directing ever again because the Koreans are now playing his game, albeit in a very different class. Maybe Madge can follow his lead and give up warbling, thereby making the world a slightly better place for everyone. We live in hope.
Where as Ritchie movies are tired and dumb, films like No Blood No Tears are fresh and innovative even at their most derivative and any twenty minute segment from this movie runs rings around anything that Hollywood has tried to produce in a similar vein in the last ten years. Even more refreshing is the fact that it's the actresses who get to spin the action away from the male cast for once.
The film has one of those convoluted, overlapping plots that seems to freefall for a while until all coming together in a cracking (ie. bone-cracking) denouement that makes you want to clap with joy.
Characters - this film is loaded with them. Kyeong-seon (Hye-yeong Lee) the ex-thief cum taxi driver with a hot temper and Su-ji (Jeon Do-yeon) the battered gangsters moll are one part Thelma and Louise with a little of the leads from Bound tossed in for good measure. Thrown together almost literally after a traffic accident the two women realise that while they are from different worlds they are both perfectly placed to help one another out of their crappy lives with just a minimum of risk and a lot of trust.
Su-ji's abusive boyfriend and ex prizefighter runs dog fights for the local Mr Big (with a nick-name like KGB you can see why Ritchie would love this) and is about to pull off a very lucrative fix. Unknown to all involved the police are monitoring events via a trio of small time punks who are planning to pull a double cross of their own. Then there are the ageing debt collectors forcing Kyeong-seon back into a life of crime and the practically mute enforcer (unleashed by KGB) who is going to take a lot of stopping if he ever gets wind of any of the schemes that are floating around the bags of money that provide the final hour's double, treble and quadruple crossings.
The pacing is frenzied but never pushes over into confusing while all the time adding more detail (the hilarious ex gangsters who now form the United Handicapped Democrats, offering 'protection' in their own unique way) and constantly pushing the themes of love and loyalty. It's not so much about knowing who to trust, but more a question of keeping your eye on the marked card as the rest of the pack shuffles around you.
If you're still having flashbacks to Old Boy's tentacle munching and are wary of the dog fighting set-up don't fret - this is not a dark movie. It has too much fun to linger on the nasty stuff, but it is in parts incredibly, beautifully violent with fist fights, street fights, car crashes, a little gun play and hotel window plummeting all masterfully choreographed. Think Tarantino's beloved Mexican standoffs, but where the bullets fly instantly as the camera ducks and dives in slow motion trying not to get itself shot.
We're getting ahead of ourselves here as No Blood No Tears is actually only showing on Wednesday the 14th at the Genesis Whitechapel as part of the awesome Firecracker Showcase (if you fancy something a little less frantic then there's PLENTY on offer over the festival's ten days including a beautiful film about traditional Korean folk singers that blew us away), but thought it best to give you the heads up early before the tickets start to sell out. This director's latest film, Crying Fist, closes the festival.