By Jeremy Knox | June 21, 2004

If you take an extremely sappy “Blade Runner”, add in a bit of “The
Matrix” with just a dash of “Cherry 2000”, you’ll end up with the
Korean film “Natural City”. This is a film that obviously had a large
budget, not Bruckheimer big, but it’s probably safe to say that it is
one of, if not the costliest Korean films ever. The film looks
fantastic; it is full of great sets, some pretty damn good CGI and it
is all beautifully shot. The story, however, is wafer thin.

The year is 2080. WWIII has come and gone. Androids are commonplace. And just like “Blade Runner” they’ve got a built in expiration date. Understandably, many of them are not happy with this fact; some take measures to combat it. R, the “hero”, is part of an elite task force with the job of hunting them down. As the movie starts they’re on the hunt for the renegade android Roy Bat… uhh Cypher. He’s the leader of a group of battle androids with 10 times the fighting capabilities of your average cop, total badasses.

This action sequence is pretty well done. The bullets fly furiously
as many a human and droid are gunned down mercilessly with lots of
nifty wire-fu and bullet-time slow down. At this point you may find
yourself getting pumped up for what may be a pretty fun sci-fi/action
flick. Sadly from here the filmmakers decide to slow it way down.

If this had simply been a run and gun type action film, it probably
would have been a hell of a lot of fun. When they try to add in some
heart, the film fails miserably. R is in love with Ria, a “doll” who
dances in a futuristic club. She only has three days left to live. To save her, R has been stealing personality chips from the droids he
kills to sell on the black market. Why he wants to risk so much for
this doll, is something that we’re never really clued in on. Ria has
absolutely no personality, she stares off into space for the majority
of her screen time. What makes her any different than any of the
other dolls is never revealed. R himself is no catch. He’s a moody,
girl hitting bastard, with some suicidal tendencies. Why we’re
supposed to root for them, I’m not quite sure.

R’s commanding officer Noma is on his tail for the chip stealing.
Noma is the more sympathetic character; he’s the true Deckard of the
film. Against the filmmakers intentions, I found myself rooting for
him to arrest R. Sadly Noma’s screen time is much less than R’s.
Then we have bizarre Dr. Giro who has come up with a way to save Ria. His plan involves her switching bodies with a human girl, Cyon. The why’s and how’s are never really explained. So R starts following Cyon, and for really stupid reasons she falls for him. Meanwhile, Cypher has come back to life and is killing all kinds of people. Noma starts to chase him again, while R somehow finds the time to join him.

If it seems like there is a lot of plotlines, there are, too many for
this film to handle. None of them are explored enough. They all get
bogged down. I got pretty bored as we jumped from character to
character all chasing each other. Overall, the characters
relationships really don’t make much sense. If they’d kept it simple
and explored the characters more, the film might have been much more
effective. Although, they probably would have spent more on the love scenes, which mostly consisted of terrible pop music while R and Ria stared “soulfully” in opposite directions. Cheesy as cheese can get. I don’t think the film could have handled another second of it without imploding.

If you choose to ignore the plot, you may enjoy “Natural City”. There are a couple of good action scequences. The actors all do a decent enough job with what they’re given; which isn’t much. The look of the film is wonderful. Visually, director Byung-chun Min does a fabulous Ridley Scott impression. (He even shares the same fondness for rain machines.) But as a writer, he needs to spend some more time at the keyboard; the story is a muddled mess, without a single original idea.

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