Tube (2004) Movie Review

Two things about “Tube”: In the beginning, during a shootout at the airport, just ignore the fact that you never see anyone reload, even though there are enough bullets flying back and forth to arm the entire Iraqi army. (Actually, I only saw a character reload once in the entire movie.) And about 40 minutes later, when the leading lady completely fouls up the bad guy’s plans, the bad guy, who has just shot about a dozen people in cold blood, doesn’t seem especially concern about letting her continue to breathe. Ignore these two things, and “Tube” isn’t completely bad, even though it’s obviously a Dumb Action Movie through and through.

“Tube” stars Seok-hun Kim as Jay, a cop who has fallen from grace and is being haunted by his past (aren’t they always?), which involves the death of his lover during a botched assignment. Now working as a lowly, disheveled, and disinterested subway cop, Jay gets a chance at redemption when T (Sang-min Park), an ex-government assassin with a personal grudge against his former employers hijack a subway car. Also in the subway car is Kay (Du-na Bae), a subway musician/pickpocket and full-time stalker. Her stalking victim is Jay, who the lonely Kay is infatuated with, and it’s in fact Kay who first spotted T and contacted Jay, thus Jay and Kay wind up in the subway car as T makes his move.

Borrowing heavily from “Die Hard” for its narrative structure, the last section of “Speed” for its overall premise, and dashes of “The Rock” for its character motivations, “Tube” was apparently postponed earlier in the year when a subway incident in South Korea claimed numerous lives. The delay of “Tube’s” bow is similar to what happened in the States with “Collateral Damage” and recently, “Phone Booth”. For action junkies there’s plenty to like about “Tube”. The movie is very slick, the production values are high, and for those weary of “a South Korean movie”, they needn’t be, because “Tube” takes its cues from Hollywood summer fare. So in those respects the film is not very “South Korean” at all.

Of course the biggest problem with “Tube” is that it’s a Dumb Action Movie. Of note is T, who carries himself like a criminal mastermind, but is not especially bright when it comes to taking decisive action. Then again, this is more writer/director Baek Woon-Hak’s fault. Owing more to the Dumb Action Movie Clich’s than anything, T never makes the obvious choice, such as blowing out Kay’s brains. Not even when Kay completely ruins his plans in the beginning, and then not again later when Kay assaults him, thus fouling up his plans to shoot the hero. Oh sure, Kay gets a beating from T’s right-hand man, but you’d think a bullet would offer a more permanent solution to what is obviously going to be a reoccurring problem. Then again, I’m no criminal mastermind, so maybe they think differently.

Speaking of Kay, the character is the weakest element of “Tube”. Besides possessing the mentality of a 5-year old with a schoolgirl crush, Kay is not entirely involved in the movie after the 50 minute mark, and her return to involvement, when she dares T to kill her, will elicit groans of disbelief instead of awe for her heroism, which is obviously what the film was going for. Of course “Tube” has no bearing on real life, because the clich’d characters that band together to stop T only exists in Dumb Action Movies. There are the Brain Dead Federal Agents, who exists only to block our hero’s path. The superiors whose only reason to exist is to scream at our hero for being such a loose cannon and make the requisite boneheaded decisions. Was there ever a superior in an action movie that wasn’t a total moron?

Still, “Tube” has a number of things going for it. The villain played by Sang-min Park may be grossly familiar, but the actor is possibly the best thing about the whole enterprise. Park gives a menacing performance with his icy cold stare, exuding personality that Chow Yun-Fat clone Seok-hun Kim can’t hope to match. And yet the two men’s vendetta is a bit much, and their shared past seems just a tad superfluous.

The movie has a big budget, with a number of thrilling action sequences that works wonders if you shut down your brain. Of course those inclined to think may be wondering why super duper criminal mastermind T hijacked the train with only one other man, making their total number a less-than-frightening two. Also, the presence of Stormtrooper Syndrome easily explains why all the SWAT guys have such lousy aim. With just two guys standing perfectly still mowing them down like they were ducks in a pond, you’d think some of those well-trained SWAT guys could get in a lucky shot — but alas, no.

In closing, always remember that if you happen to find yourself in a Dumb Action Movie, remember to put something metal (preferably with sentimental value) inside your coat’s breast pocket. Why? Invariably the bad guy will shoot you in the chest and think he’s killed you, when that metal object will have in fact blocked the bullet! Of course, this is the type of thing you can only do in Dumb Action Movies, so make sure you’re in one before you take the risk.

Baek Woon-Hak (director) / Baek Woon-Hak (screenplay)
CAST: Seok-hun Kim … Jay
Sang-min Park … T
Du-na Bae … Kay

Buy Tube on DVD