By Steve Figueroa
Back in 2016, the world was gifted the Korean Horror gem, Train to Busan. While many in the U.S. didn't get to see it until it's debut on DVD in 2017 by Well Go USA distribution company, it won fans and critics over with it's smooth delivery, slick editing, quick-witted humor, and gritty action.
Fast forward to 2020 and the studio decides to release a follow up to that incredible film. However, reminiscent of everything else this year - it started off ok, then just spiraled out of the control into a cesspool of CGI drift sessions, teen-smartassery, and planting the seed that the epidemic somehow put North Korea in a situation where they are seen as victors in all this.
Makes you almost wonder if there wasn't a little poli-dicking going on with the script to write that part in. But I'll make this review quick and easy to dissect.
If you are a fan of the style of zombie movie you got with Train to Busan - shaky camera, real humans, lots of chase scenes at a real train station - you will not like the CGI/Green Screen diarrhea you'll have to sift through in order to just enjoy a horror movie. This was just too much.
First off, you'll get the feeling that the guys from Fast & the Furious were brought in to consult on ideas on how to annihilate thousands zombies in a modified... KIA SORENTO!? GTFOH. I own one and I can't say I believe it would fair well in this situation. But in Peninsula, you are put through what feels like 40 minutes of Tokyo Drift style action, handbrake yanking, physics defying car stunts where thousands of zombies are mutilated by this Dom Toretto-tuned Kia. Piloted by what can only be described as a professional drifter, sitting in a rear projection studio instead of....say an actual street at all.
There's so much CGI, they could have just eliminated the use of humans and made this an anime and you would only lose about 20 minutes of human interaction.
Honestly, it ruined the entire movie for me. And don't get me wrong, I love CGI when used to fill in the blanks, or make slight corrections to a scene. But for this movie, it's CGI from top to bottom. In between the CGI, we find enough time for a small band of inexplicably well armed bandits who host a zombie-cage-death-match for money, using victims they pick at random. A clear rip off of Mad-Max. Director Yeon Sang-ho could have swung for the fences and gave the zombies squeaky toys for feet and it would not have made this situation any worse.
The final climactic scene made me want to tap out 10 minutes before the credits rolled. But geometry and cartoonishly bad symmetry left a terrible taste in my mouth.
The reason the world fell in love with Train to Busan in 2016 was that it felt real. This disease spread fast and you watched it real time. We loved it then and we would have loved it even more now considering our current state of events.
But, this film really went all in on the CGI to give the viewer the ominous feeling of dystopian nightmares that are pandemics. And I can agree the idea of a powerless city overrun by zombies is frightening enough, they could have done so much more with so much less.
The CGI aside, the acting is...well, it's par for the course. It is likely the saving grace of this film as you'd be hard pressed not to enjoy the hilarity that little Lee Re brings to the table. Pop Singer and actress Lee Jung-hyun plays the older sister and pro-drift teen, bringing laughs and insight into what it would be like to be a teen girl, big sis, and risk taker during a global pandemic.
Gang Dong-won plays the title character who enters the infection zone and sets off this insane chain of events in search of some crap for a gangster who offers top dollar. Which makes this movie all the more unrealistic as the team they assemble doesn't seem to have an incentive to help each other out of this mess in the first place. If someone offered you a million dollars to enter a haunted house and retrieve a bag of diamonds, wouldn't you wanna do it with a team you knew would be qualified and incentivized to get each other at least out of house? Not in this reality.
So, if you can ignore the cgi and plot-holes, Train to Busan 2 - Peninsular -isn't the worst thing you'll see this year. But don't say I didn't warn you.