[Fresh on Blu-ray] ARROW Video releases a Korean masterpiece ‘JSA’, get into dad mode with ‘LET HIM GO’ and ‘GREENLAND’

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James Clay//Film Critic

JSA (JOINT SECURITY AREA)

Rated R, 109 minutes.
Director: Park Chan Wook
Cast: Song Kang-Ho, Lee Byung Hun, Lee Young-ae

Korean filmmaker Park Chan Wook (OLDBOY, THE HANDMAIDEN) is a sophisticated and uniquely skilled storyteller who can shock his audience while obtaining an optimistic look at humanity. His work crossed over to the United States long before Bong Joon Ho and PARASITE became water cooler talk for virtually every walk of life. 

Park’s political thriller JSA (JOINT SECURITY AREA) is a subversion from his other heightened work pieces. Yet, it maintains humor, rote political discourse unique to North and South Korea, and it teaches its audience something about levity and forgiveness. 

Arrow Video has released this (somewhat) deep cut yet celebrated thriller with a sharp release. It’s filled with original artwork created for the Blu-ray, and a total wealth of special features (which capture the social context from when the film was produced at the turn of the century). 

JSA opens with a tragedy on the demilitarized zone along the border of North and South Korea. Two North Korean soldiers dead, one injured (Song Kang-Ho of PARASITE), one South Korean injured (Lee Byung Hun of I SAW THE DEVIL), and tensions between the nations are hitting a boiling point. A neutral team of investigators from Sweden (of course) comes into the green zone to investigate. Led by a Swedish/Korean Army Major (Lee Young-ae of LADY VENGEANCE), she approaches the situation as an outsider who may have a connection that could bring peace after shedding blood. What unfolds is an often humorous and heartfelt Rashoman tale of what happened that night. 

Part action and part legal thriller and buddy comedy, Park’s film ushers in an esteemed style that aims to entertain and subtly educate his audience on the senselessness of war. JSA bolsters a strong message of unity and turning the other cheek.

Buy or rent? JSA is a blind buy if you haven’t seen the supremely entertaining film. Complete with slightly dated interviews, the disc still provides a history of modern Korean cinema making its way West and its effect on the international film market. For that alone with the quality of the film itself makes this a must-own. 

Special Features: 

  • Newly recorded interview with Asian Cinema Expert Jasper Sharp
  • The JSA Story and Making the Film: two archival featurettes on the making of the film
  • About JSA- Archival Interviews with the cast
  • Two Music Videos
  • Original Slipcover artwork
  • Reversible artwork

Grade: A-

JSA is available from MVD Entertainment Group and can be purchased here, or on Amazon.

LET HIM GO

Rated R, 113 minutes
Director: Thomas Bezucha
Cast: Diane LaneKevin CostnerLesley ManvilleKayli CarterBooboo StewartJeffrey DonovanWill BrittainRyan BruceAdam Stafford

Grab your dad a quality sitting chair and dust off those old cowboy boots because LET HIM GO is way more satisfying than expected.

Directed by Thomas Bezucha (THE FAMILY STONE), the neo-Western thriller is tailored to satisfy an older audience. Before the pandemic, this type of Kevin Costner vehicle would have been a solid mid-budget hit in theaters, and for a good reason. The reasoning is simple: LET HIM GO is a damn-good movie. It’s filled with humble machismo from Costner, impressive range from Diane Lane, and a bonkers role for Lesley Manville. There is more to it than meets the eye.

Following the death of their adult son, retired sheriff George Blackledge (Costner) and his wife, Margaret (Lane), hit the road from their Montana ranch to rescue their grandson from the dangerous Weboy family (led by Manville.) The Weboy family is hellbent on turning their grandbaby into a member of their brainwashed clan of petty criminals.

First off, Lane and Costner are a perfect on-screen couple. Their chemistry feels well-worn and carries the film into territory that’s heartfelt and believable. Bezucha’s direction hones in on what makes the Blackledge’s marriage strong after all these years. It’s a love that captures small moments and subtle glances in trying ones. When tensions get roused, and guns become unholstered, the couple leans on each other emotionally and physically, and all that comes down to mature and decisive filmmaking.

LET HIM GO follows the recent tradition of sturdy modern Westerns like WIND RIVER, HELL OR HIGH WATER, and HOSTILES. It challenges the ideas of masculinity and subverts all expectations.

Rent or Buy? If Kevin Costner is one of your favorite on-screen dads, you’re going to melt at his stoic charm, which makes LET HIM GO a must-own. But if you’re looking just for something to rent on a movie night, this will be a perfect blind rental. Most audiences are going to be completely satisfied with this film. So, I say give it a shot.

Special Features:

  • The Making of Let Him Go
  • The Blackledges: Kevin Costner & Diane Lane
  • Lighting the Way: Thomas Bezucha

Grade: B+

LET HIM GO is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and Digital.

Also, check out our interview with LET HIM GO author Larry Watson here>>


GREENLAND

Rated PG-13, 119 minutes.
Director: Ric Roman Waugh
Cast: Gerard ButlerMorena BaccarinRoger Dale Floyd, and Scott Glenn

GREENLAND is one of those disaster movies that is helped by its mid-level budget. This Gerard Butler (DEN OF THIEVES) vehicle starring Morena Baccarin (DEADPOOL) relies on character development to ramp up the tension of its apocalyptic landscape rather than some lame piece of exposition in between explosions. Butler is still making his living as a rough and tumble man with a troubled past, but the actor brings heart to the world-altering story. The film directed by Ric Roman Waugh (SHOTCALLER) is adept at making its well-worn premise watchable. That may not be the best compliment, but GREENLAND is one piece of terrifying escapism that works for its audience’s affections, and it pays off in the end. 

John Garrity (Butler) makes his living building skyscrapers that are about to be torn down by a comet discovered by NASA a few weeks prior. All seems to be well, and despite Garrity being on the outs with his wife Allison (Baccarin), he throws a neighborhood cookout to celebrate the comet passing over Earth. Still, his motive is to win back her affections and prove that he’s a great dad. Panic starts to set in once John receives a “Presidential Alert” to gather his family and report to a distinct location. He realizes that the world is ending, and the cookout comes very awkward and hostile very fast. 

Where GREENLAND succeeds is in the pacing and emotional core at the center. You feel the love John feels for his family, and the film doesn’t sideline Allison to make just about how he’s going to save his family and win back their affections because he’s a big tough man. This film feels oddly relevant as we see families ripped apart by gun-toting government officials and as fire reigns down from the sky. GREENLAND is a throwback that goes through the motions to become a fun film to watch if you want to see the world burn. 

Rent or Buy? This is a rental through, and through the kind of film you watch just for the popcorn and special effects. 

Grade: B-

GREENLAND hits Blu-ray and DVD on February 9, and is now available on Digital.

About author

James C. Clay

James Cole Clay has been working as a film critic for the better part of a decade covering new releases, blu ray reviews and the occasional drive-in cult classic. His writing is dedicated to discovering social politics through diverse voices, primarily focusing on Women In Film and LGBTQ cinema.