Steel Rain 2: Summit (2020) ☆☆(2/4): A jumbled South Korean geopolitical thriller

South Korean film “Steel Rain 2: Summit”, which is a sort of retread instead of being a direct sequel to “Steel Rain” (2017), a jumbled geopolitical thriller which tries too many things at once. While it strives to maintain its attitude straight as required, it also tries not only broad satire and blatant melodrama but also obligatory geopolitical lecture on that complicated relationships among US, Japan, China, and South and North Korea, and I found it too messy and incoherent in addition to being bothered by its simple-minded nationalistic viewpoint which is not so different from that of its predecessor.

Jung Woo-sung, who previously played a strong-willed North Korean hero in “Steel Rain”, plays South Korean President Han Kyeong-Jae, and the first act of the movie mainly focuses on how President Han has tried hard for a successful peace treaty between North Korea and US during last several years. When the US government led by President Smoot (Angus MacFadyen) refuses to step back a bit for the peace treaty, President Han has no choice but to accept what President Smoot demands, but then he is warned in private about the potential trouble from that political choice by the Chinese ambassador in South Korea.

As shown from the prologue scene set somewhere in the middle of the East China Sea, things turn out to be quite more complicated than it seems on the surface. President Han is reported about a shady financial backdoor dealing between one prominent right-wing figure in Japan and a suspicious Chinese businessman, but he and his ministers still cannot discern what is exactly going on, though they all sense that something may happen around the time of the upcoming summit between President Smoot and the chairman of North Korea.

When President Smoot and President Han arrive in Wonsan, North Korea, everything looks fine and well on the surface, but President Han soon finds himself in a tricky situation as sandwiched between President Smoot and the chairman of North Korea. President Smoot shows nothing but contempt and arrogance in front of his opponent, and the chairman of North Korea, played by Yoo Yeon-seok, is certainly not amused by Smoot’s boorish attitude. Although he is technically more or less than a moderator without much power, President Han tries to facilitate the progress of the summit as much as he can, but he only comes to reach to the dead end while the other two figures keep refusing to step back at all.

And then they are all suddenly thrown into a very dangerous circumstance. The Supreme Guard Command Chief of North Korea, played by Kwak Do-won (He previously played a South Korean government official helping Jung’s character in “Steel Rain”, by the way), attempts a coup d’état mainly because he has opposed to the peace treaty, and he and his soldiers quickly surround President Han and President Smooth as well as the chairman of North Korea.

Along with President Han and the chairman of North Korea, President Han is swiftly taken to a North Korean nuclear submarine ready to launch a nuclear missile at any point, and the movie accordingly enters the territory of “The Hunt for Red October” (1990) and “Crimson Tide” (1995) as the submarine sails to a certain spot in the East Sea of the Korean Peninsula. In front of his three very important hostages, the Supreme Guard Command Chief of North Korea has your average talkative villain scene, and, thanks to that, everyone in the submarine comes to realize how serious the situation really is for not only North and South Korea but also the surrounding countries.

Now you will probably roll your eyes on the sheer preposterousness of the plot, but then the screenplay by director/writer Yang woo-seok goes further with more unlikely elements. Besides the busy political intrigues around US, China, and Japan, there is a very big typhoon coming to the East Sea of the Korean Peninsula, and then there are also a series of loud and frustrating arguments among President Han, President Smoot, and the chairman of North Korea, who are now stuck together in a stuffy cabin without any progress. Again, President Han tries to get things under control, and that leads to several tedious moments as he lectures a lot on the geopolitical situation surrounding South and North Korea in front of two other guys.

During the last act, the movie throws several tense action scenes unfolded inside and outside the submarine as expected, but it still suffers from its weak storytelling and thin characterization, and the main cast members only come to fill their respective spots without anything else to do. While Jung and Kwak are engaging performers who ably carried the previous film together, both of them are again limited by their colorless characters, though Kwak seems to enjoy chewing his big moments as much as he can. In case of the other notable main cast members in the film, Yoo Yeon-seok manages to hold his own place well between Kwak and Jung, and Angus MacFadyen shamelessly goes all the way for overacting because, well, that goes with the territory if you play a character who is clearly based on that orange-faced prick occupying the White House at present.

Although it is not a total disaster like that atrocious nationalistic junk called “Hanbando” (2006), “Steel Rain 2: Summit” is one or two steps below its predecessor in terms of skill and entertainment. Yes, I did not like “Steel Rain” enough, but it was entertaining at least during its first half, and it is a bit of shame that its follow-up fails to reach to the standard set by its predecessor without anything particularly new or fresh.

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