Psychokinesis review Ryu Seung-ryong Shim Eun-kyungAsian blockbusters are a different kind of beast. The humor, high-stakes melodrama, operatic set pieces, sappy piano cues and beautiful casts – who’s to argue? If that sounds appealing, Netflix has some gems for you. Psychokinesis boasts Yeon Sang-ho’s follow-up to Train To Busan. Yeon again toys with broad pop sensibilities, tackling the superhero genre with intimacy, and proving that the genre still has plenty of untapped potential. Manhunt marks a welcome return from legend John Woo. You can expect an endless hail of bullets, a doozy of a frame job and gleeful excess. Together or apart, each film has sincerity and charm in equal measure, amounting to infectious fun that’s hard to pass up.

Psychokinesis catches us off guard, beginning with a tragic eviction and the death of a family member. From there, Yeon throws in meteors from space, contaminated drinking water, and a hapless security guard named Seok-hyeon (Ryu Seung-ryong), who is suddenly able to move things with his mind. Rather than trying to save the world, however, Seok-hyeon turns his efforts towards his grieving daughter named Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung). She and a small community have banded together to save her modest fried chicken joint and its surrounding neighborhood from gentrification.

Keeping the story grounded, Yeon’s film finds its heart through Seok-hyeon and Roo-mi’s budding relationship. The film tethers around Seok-hyeon’s guilt, a by-product of his absentee parenting as he attempts to make the most of a second chance. As Seok-hyeon and Roo-mi stave off thirsty corporate wrecking crews, Yeon delivers a series of hair-raising action sequences, never shying away from absurdity or laughs which contrast with darker underpinnings. By blending social drama with familial reconciliation, Yeon’s film builds to a crowd-pleasing conclusion. As with Train to Busan, the ending is cathartic and unabashedly absurd, but also more bittersweet than if the film where made stateside.

Manhunt review Ha Ji-wonContinuing the crazy, Woo’s Manhunt is an all-out action film that goes for broke and never looks back. Before the film’s first 30 minutes, we encounter a pair of ruthless female assassins, a lawyer without a conscience, a meet cute, multiple mistresses, and of course, a murder. The later causes hell for Du Qiu (Zhang Hanyu), a Chinese lawyer in Japan who becomes unwittingly embroiled in corporate espionage. As he goes on the run, he encounters a cavalcade of strangers all looking to end his life. He ultimately meets an honest-to-god cop named Yamura (Masaharu Fukuyama), who just wants the truth – think Tommy Lee Jones courtesy of the film’s biggest influence, The Fugitive. Woo balances buddy dynamics and his usual bullet ballets in a way that’s self-assured and farcical to the core.

In a lot of ways, Woo’s film is a time capsule from his heyday. His talent for violent frenzy is on full display, but so is are outdated gender and social dynamics, relying on simplistic romances, cartoonish villains and gunplay that defies the law of physics. Still, the film is fun thanks to a director who fully commits. Even with the film’s mounting twists, there’s an operatic gusto that’s hard to shake. I mean, this thing has got it all – samurai swords vs guns, car chases, a jet-ski showdown, slo-mo, and of course, doves! Oh, but just you wait, the final act and reveal is something that would’nt be out of place in a Marvel film. Everything goes through the roof as blood and backstabbing amount to what’s bound to be a midnight classic.

Sure, neither film boasts Yeon or Woo’s best work, but both are still a nice change of pace from the what’s invading theaters right now. There’s a fearless abandon that props up each insane story, and if nothing else, it’s a quality that feels like a breath of fresh air. Fans of either director or anyone looking for fare that’s undeniably goofy yet full of heart, need look no further. File Psychokinesis and Manhunt under worthy counter programming.

SG