“Train to Busan,” the best zombie movie in years, hurled us into a human-caused Korean pandemic and taught us to never ever get too attached to any would-be survivor for long.
It had gut-punching pathos blended in with the endless assaults by the zombie horde, not all of whom could be gunned down, video game shoot-em-up fashion.
Sang-ho Yeon’s sequel, “Peninsula,” is a zombie movie riff on “The Road Warrior” with bits of “Escape from New York” splashed on top. It’s a more conventional, more predictable and more wearing thriller that relies entirely too much on late night CGI car and truck chases through a sea of Walking Dead flooding the ruined streets of post-apocalyptic Seoul.
There’s pathos. Some deaths still surprise us. But this film, featuring a few scenes in English, with a scattering of American and Chinese characters, plays as “You liked that? We’ll give you more” pandering.
Dong-Won Gang plays the “hero,” a Korean Army captain we meet as he’s taking the back roads, trying to get his sister and her family out “the last boat” off the Korean peninsula.
The only one Jung Seok saves, aside from himself, is his brother-in-law Chul-min (Do-Yoon Kim). Both men are haunted by this, and the other horror they’ve seen.
Four years later, the pandemic has destroyed Korea, but remained confined there. An audience watching that in 2020 will find that funny. I did.
Jung Seok and Chul-min are stateless refugees in Hong Kong, relying on the HK underworld to survive. They’re picked for a dangerous mission. Four people will be put ashore at Incheon to finish some cash and gold looting the gang had set up, but which zombies foiled.
Once they’re ashore, the four quickly become two. Because zombies aren’t the only bipeds out to kill them or at least foil their plans.
Kids in an SUV rescue Jung Seok. Chul-min? He’s taken, with the cash truck, by members of Unit 631, a commando force abandoned there. Left on their own, they’ve gone rogue and gone mad. “Wild Dog Hunts” the crazed Sgt. Hwang (Min-Jae Kim) call their search for other survivors. They turn their captives into live sport in a sort of Thunderdome Meet 60 Seconds in Heaven.
Survive two minutes, and you live to eat uncooked Ramen another day.
As a third party, Captain Seo (Kyo-hwan Koo) has his hands on the cash and their sat-phone, getting everybody out, with the cash, is going to be dicey.
Can Jung Seok count on a widow (Jung-hyun Lee), her two little girls (Re Lee, Ye-Won Lee) and their crazed grandfather (Hae-hyo Kwon) in a pinch?
“Peninsula” is basically a digital effects dumbing-down of “Train to Busan.”
Snippets of a cheesy American TV interview bring us “up to date” on the Peninsula and its history (“Reunification” is mentioned). Yank-splaining?
The new “rules” for coping with this version of “Zombieland” are repeated for those not paying close attention the first time.
“Don’t forget, the zombies are blind at night, but sensitive to SOUND.”
Right right, we got it — in Korean, Chinese and English, with English subtitles.
The endless digital truck chases are more wearying than impressive, and as to the plot, there are twists at the end but pretty much only at the end. Even the dialogue feels recycled from many other sci-fi thrillers.
“Get in if you want to live!”
Yes, I’d still rather watch this than “The Walking Dead,” but that’s mainly because this packs a lot of mayhem into 110 minutes, and then has the good sense to END.
MPAA Rating: unrated, gun violence, grisly zombie violence,
Cast: Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee, Re Lee, Hae-hyo Kwon, Min-Jae Kim, Do-Yoon Kim
Credits: Directed by, script by Sang-ho Yeon, Joo-Suk Park, Sang-ho Yeon A Shudder/Well Go Entertainment release.
Running time: 1:55