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The Yellow Sea (2011)


Average Rating: 6.6/10
Reviews Counted: 20
Fresh: 17
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 6.2/10
Reviews Counted: 6
Fresh: 4
Rotten: 2

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 1,149


Movie Info

The Yellow Sea follows Gu-nam (Ha Jung-Woo), a cab driver from this region who embarks on an assassination mission to South Korea in order to pay off his mounting debt as well as search for his missing wife. He takes on the job without knowing much about his target and soon finds himself in the middle of a dangerous conspiracy as he begins to uncover a vicious trap of betrayal and lies. Framed for the murder he did not commit, Gu-nam is chased down by the police as well as those responsible for … More

R (for brutal bloody violence, some strong sexuality, nudity, and language)
Drama , Art House & International , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
Hong-jin Na
In Theaters:
Mar 26, 2012
20th Century Fox - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Yellow Sea

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (3) | DVD (2)

...does boast its fair share of gripping moments.

Full Review… | March 21, 2013
MSN Movies
Top Critic

A breakneck mix of bone-crunching freneticism and bloody close-quarters knife-fighting with a strand of romantic melancholy.

Full Review… | December 1, 2011
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

A rush of a movie from South Korea that slips and slides from horror to humor on rivers of blood and offers the haunting image of a man, primitive incarnate, beating other men with an enormous, gnawed-over meat bone.

Full Review… | December 1, 2011
New York Times
Top Critic

The Yellow Sea is far less interested in character than in choreographing pursuit scenes spiced with Asia Extreme levels of violence.

Full Review… | November 29, 2011
Time Out New York
Top Critic

Writer-director Na Hong-Jin achieves a vibe of urban desolation right off the bat, and deepens the mayhem with acutely observed and charged details about illegal-immigrant life.

Full Review… | November 29, 2011
Village Voice
Top Critic

A listless succession of brutal, consequence-free stabbings encase a pair of lengthy chase set pieces, both technically adept, both utterly ridiculous.

Full Review… | October 18, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Although the central story is compelling, even fans of this ultra-violent genre might find The Yellow Sea (the water between China and Korea) is too long and dark, especially given the way the leading characters wear black at night.

Full Review… | December 14, 2011
Birmingham Post

Probably the year's best crime drama and might be confirmation that there is a new master of the genre, spinning tough as teak tales, ready to emerge

Full Review… | December 5, 2011
Urban Cinefile

a gripping existentialist thriller, where jealousy, greed and desperation lead inexorably to a chaos of carnage, and where exile and death cross their borders to merge into an emotionally-charged sequence of final images.

Full Review… | November 10, 2011

At nearly two and a half hours long, The Yellow Sea is overkill in every sense.

Full Review… | October 25, 2011
Total Film

[A] highly efficient Korean thriller...

Full Review… | October 23, 2011
Observer [UK]

The action is epic but there's psychological depth too.

Full Review… | October 21, 2011
This is London

Perhaps The Yellow Sea does not really hang together, and, yes, it could perhaps have lost 30 minutes. But its power and bite-strength are impressive.

Full Review… | October 20, 2011

I was never bored, it's fast and funny and edge-of-the-seat tense; it's just that I'd still like to see the end of the film it started off being.

Full Review… | October 19, 2011
Electric Sheep

A violent thrill-ride to a dark new corner of Asian cinema.

Full Review… | October 18, 2011
Empire Magazine

Frenzy is fine, but a little bit more clarity, at least narratively speaking, would have been nice.

Full Review… | October 3, 2011

An exhilarating film with action that is breathtakingly kinetic and visceral.

Full Review… | August 13, 2011
Cinema Autopsy

An epic noir thriller that contains no small amount of excitement, it suggests that Na might well be the best action director currently working in Korea.

Full Review… | July 14, 2011

The overriding tone is bitter irony and brutal hypocrisy. There's no honor among thieves here.

Full Review… | June 10, 2011
Parallax View

Audience Reviews for The Yellow Sea

Na Hong-jin's The Yellow Sea is a crafted Korean crime thriller.The 2 hour 15 minute run time is lengthy, especially when the plot details get sketchy. The 4 chapter story does contain some good storytelling, but things can become elusive with a wealth of characters to focus on. Nonetheless, the plot twists come in at opportune times and the cloudiness of what comes next as the story progresses works in the film's favor.Aside from the story, the gritty and realistic violence, full of knives and hatchets, is a pleasant surprise and in high abundance. The destructive vehicle sequences are the icing on the cake.Ha Jung-woo is a convincing neutral protagonist. A lot of blood comes at the hands of Kim Yun-seok.Once the final scene, which occurs in the closing credits, is over, The Yellow Sea finds itself as a recommendable picture out of Korea.

JY Skacto

Super Reviewer


Na Hong Jin brings us his second feature after the dark and disturbing The Chaser. The Yellow Sea is a complex character piece that sees a man from Yanji City travel to South Korea to kill a man in order to pay off his missing wife's debts. Like The Chaser, this is also a film that mixes fast paced action and gritty realistic violence. In many ways The Yellow Sea is a lot like a poor man's Bourne, but not in terms of production quality. As Gu Nam travels to Seoul it isn't by plane in a fancy suit, he's herded into a ship in a room with dozens of other people, freezing and sick not everyone makes it. Gu Nam takes his time over the kill and it shows his inexperience. Of course, Gu Nam is really there to search for his missing wife but as things escalate so does the action. Incredible chases on foot and by car elevate this thriller to something that really does thrust a man on the run thriller into the real world. As the film progresses more and more people find themselves involved in the hunt for Gu Nam it's rather humorous to see him quite oblivious to those after him. The Yellow Sea sees the tragic places people from the almost ignored Yanji City find themselves in. Love and dedication are the main themes but are hidden behind an exhilarating wall of delicately crafted action sequences. Brilliant.

Luke Baldock

Super Reviewer

Liked it up to half way through, then felt like a totally different movie, too many characters, couldn't follow it at all. (or maybe it's just it was very late and I was tired...).

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer

Unlike the highly overrated "The Chaser" the story here makes sense, and there's not a bunch of silly coincidences, or clinically stupid cops. There's still some dumb cops, but the movie has a more convincing setting and characters. The problem is that, at some point, it becomes a long series of fight and chase sequences, where the protagonist, and the main antagonist, keep getting wounded, stabbed and what not over and over, without any real consequences to their bodies. This turns the movie into a cartoon, and from that point it becomes difficult to take it seriously. Again, just like the chaser, cheap thrills instead of real human drama, or effective characters.

With a proper script, Mr Hong-Jin Na he could do something good. We'll have to wait for that day to arrive.

Tsubaki Sanjuro

Super Reviewer

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