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The Top 6 Korean Films Released on Netflix in 2013

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Korean movies are still pretty freaking great

Nearly every time I tell people that I'm a fan of Korean films, I point them to the Korean subgenre on Netflix. It's easy, and even though many people won't ever check them out, I'm happy that the option is there. I understand that some of the films I see will probably never get a wider release, but there are others that people will get to see. And it makes me happy that I'm not the only white guy watching some of these things.

This past year was an odd one, though. It's not so much that there weren't many great releases (although there were definitely fewer than in years past), but that there weren't many releases that really impacted me personally. I saw the films that the films below hit the service and thought, "Yeah! Awesome!" Not, "Oh thank god! Now everyone else will know what I was talking about!"

What I'm trying to say is that 2013 didn't have a Sunny. (If you haven't seen Sunny, fix that right now. Nothing on this list is as good as Sunny is. Heck, nothing in life is as good as Sunny is. Except for the director's cut of Sunny, which is even better.)

But even though there was no Sunny, the following six films are all well worth your time. In no particular order, here are the six best Korean films added to Netflix in the past year.

A Company Man


When I joke about how violent Korean films are, I usually conjure up an image of something that resembles A Company Man, a film that features a man walk into his old office with an M-16. Then there's a firefight (because everyone else is packing), and a whole lot of people die. Like, a ridiculous number of people.

The message of A Company Man is that there is more to life than your work, and I know that because soon after this massacre, the protagonist sits down with a young man and fucking says it. I mean, how heavy handed can you get? That's even more bash-your-head-in-blatant than The Shining's "All work and no play" scene. It's completely ridiculous, and it sounds more like a bizarre figment of my imagination than a real thing. But it is a real thing, and it's on Netflix, and you should go watch it. Assuming you can handle bloodshed. If you can't, though, why are you interested in Korean movies?

Watch it here.

My Girlfriend is an Agent

Whereas most of the films on this list are dark, violent, and depressing, My Girlfriend is an Agent is bright, violent, and delightful. It simultaneously revives the spy-themed romantic comedy and then brutally murders it, because it's just so good there's no way to follow it up (so people may as well not try). It's a silly movie that's constantly doing new and surprising things, and the less you know about it the better. But it'll put a big, dumb grin on your face and have you in hysterics at least once or twice. 

Read our review here.

Watch it here.

Rough Cut

The movie that's being made within Rough Cut is a movie that I would want to make: get some people who know how to fight to fight. No stunt men, no pulled punches. They just beat each other until someone says "Cut." It's also how I envision the higher-quality action scenes in so many Korean films are made. So while I understand that this film is not actually representative of the average film set, I have chosen to view it as something of a docudrama. But real or imagined, Rough Cut tells a compelling story and has some great action scenes to cap it all off. They may not the best fights I've seen (somewhat unfortunate given the basic premise of the film), but each punch really means something and matters to the story. That sort of narrative weight to these physical blows is something missing from so many action movies these days, and that helps Rough Cut stand out from the pack.

Read our review here.

Watch it here.

New World

Did you know that Choi Min-sik doesn't really like violence? Could've fooled me. New World is yet another super-violent entrant in his filmography (although his part is relatively tame). When I spoke with him in 2012, he likened it to The Departed (I'm still slightly offended he didn't compare it to Infernal Affairs, but whatever), and I don't know that that's a particularly helpful comparison. Like that film, there is an undercover agent... and that's basically where the similarities end. But it's a good thing, because we've already got The Departed (and Infernal Affairs). It's good to have a different sort of undercover story, and there are some pretty great twists along the way. Also, the opening shot of the movie is of a dude covered in his own blood. Seriously, Korea? You need some counseling.

Watch it here.

The Thieves

I really don't watch enough heist movies. I honestly couldn't tell you why I don't, but I could count probably count the number of heist films I've seen on two hands. But I have seen The Thieves, and it's pretty awesome. It's not an amazing movie, really, but it's a lot of fun, and there's nothing wrong with a little fun once in a while. The film's epic scale and international rivalry adds a really fascinating tension, especially for someone without a whole lot of context for racial divides in other areas of the world. I really enjoy seeing the racism in other cultures, and while I've probably got a relatively skewed vision from Korean blockbusters, it's interesting to see what does and does not get said about vast swaths of people. 

But what really matters is that The Thieves shows off a great heist. I do wish I had more to compare it to, though, because heists are awesome. Maybe that should be my resolution for 2014: see more freaking heist movies.

Watch it here.

Pieta


Until Amour came along and screwed everything up, Pieta was my favorite foreign film of 2012. Kim Ki-Duk is a very... unique director, and his films are compelling and sickening in equal part. I think the easiest moment to point to is the one when the protagonist forces this new woman in his life to prove she is his mother. Immediately following the film I had a 45 minute discussion with people who had not watched it attempting to justify the actions in that scene to them, and they were having none of it. They couldn't get beyond the face value of it, and I will be the first to admit that it's pretty disturbed stuff, but there's logic here, deranged as it may be. Watching this man go through what could have been the best time of his life is absolutely heartbreaking. It's a cruel film, and it's tough to watch, but it's brilliant nonetheless.

Watch it here.

 

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Alec Kubas-Meyer
Alec Kubas-MeyerReviews & Features Editor   gamer profile

Alec Kubas-Meyer signed up for Flixist in May of 2011 as a news writer, and he never intended to write a single review. Funny, then, that he is now the site's Reviews (and Features) Editor. After... more + disclosures


 


 


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