At the Movies with Jason: “Mr Long” & “Gook”

Hey everyone, Jason from Jack-FM here with another pair of SIFF reviews for you!

I feel like the past few movies I’ve seen have had one amazing thing in common:  Fantastic performances from younger actors.  In Wonder Woman, young Diana was fierce; in Mr Long, Jun was solemn yet playful; and in Gook, Kamilla was the central figure that pulled the entire movie together.

With that said, let’s get into the first movie:

Friday night, my SIFF buddy and I hit the Egyptian to see Mr Long.  SIFF describes it as “a modern fable” about a knife wielding Taiwanese hitman who, after failing to kill his mark & escaping from the Japanese mob, hides in an abandoned village while he tends to his wounds & waits for his opportunity to escape from Japan.

While hiding, he meets Jun, the son of a drug addicted prostitute.  Together, they nurse Jun’s mother back to health, as the residents of the village enlist Long to cook for them.

Torn between catching the boat back to Taiwan & staying with his temporary new life, he constantly worries that his past will catch up with them all.

This movie was absolutely beautiful.  It’s shot wonderfully; it’s funny & solemn, striking & horrifying.  It’s also a movie that relies on the visuals to tell the story.  There is very little dialogue in Mr Long, with characters speaking in both Mandarin & Japanese.  The title character says maybe 20 words throughout the film, letting the supporting cast do the talking for him.  Jun, the little boy, really fills the screen with emotion & hope, and it was really amazing watching the story slowly unfold.

There is a scene of graphic sexual violence that is very difficult to watch, especially given where it happens in the story.  However, the resolution to the movie is well worth sticking through it.

It’s a very slow moving film, but that’s clearly by design.  The lighthearted & fun moments add a great balance to the darker tones of mob violence, prostitution, and drug addiction.

I highly recommend it.  It will be playing twice this week; you can catch it 9:30 Thursday night or 9:15 Saturday night at the Egyptian Theater in Capitol Hill.

Next up was GOOK, a movie that “blends the social commentary of Spike Lee with the visual and comedic style of Clerks.”

I played a bit of hooky from the studio this morning to go catch the press screening of Gook, and I’m really happy that I did.  It’s a fantastic piece about racial tension & apprehension on the first day of the LA Rodney King Riots in 1992, told from the perspective of Korean Americans in Paramount, CA.

Two Korean brothers run their father’s shoe shop in South Central.  Helping them is the school ditching Kamilla, whose mother used to work at the store with the brothers’ father.

Taking place across the 24 hours surrounding the not-guilty verdict in the Rodney King case, the film focuses on the struggles between all of the different characters:  The brothers, Eli & Daniel, argue about the store, Kamilla and her sister argue about school, Kamilla’s brother Keith blames the store & the people in it for the death of their mother, and the Korean liquor store owner across the street argues with EVERYONE.

Justin Chon plays the lead role of Eli, as well as directing the film, which was partially funded via Kickstarter.  In the campaign notes, he talks about how the movie takes so much from what really happened with his father’s shoe store in Paramount, CA.  He was 10 years old when the LA Riots began, and he watched the store get looted.

He also says, “With all of the talk about diversity these days, people are very astute to when there is even an iota of racism present. What does that mean for me? How do I do my own part? Because I’ve had some fortune in Hollywood and have been able to work regularly, some people do look to me for an answer, and the only possible thing I could think of would be to create… People may look at my content and decide it’s not true art or not worthy of their privileged eyes, but I realize that it is absolutely imperative in slowly changing the paradigms that currently exists. So create.”

The movie is visually striking, shot in black & white, and the acting was just fantastic.  It is truly a labor of love, and that really comes across in the performances.

Again, I highly recommend this one.  It’s a poignant film from an important perspective.

It’s playing at the SIFF Cinema Uptown in Queen Anne this week.  You can catch it Thursday night at 7pm or Friday afternoon at 4pm, with the director, Justin Chon, in attendance for a Q&A after both shows.

Coming up, I’m seeing the 1983 Christopher Walken film BRAINSTORM tonight, so I’ll have another review for you up tomorrow.


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