The story follows Sam (Sung Kang) as he has just returned to Los Angeles after dissapearing for a year. We learn that, because of a drug-deal gone bad, Sam’s best friend Joon (Leonardo Nam) was murdered, and this caused Sam to leave. Now he has returned, and his mission is to set things right, or undo all of the wrong that has happened.
This is where the movie starts to fall apart. Sam’s mission is not to find out who killed Joon, but to give money to his family and then leave town again, this time remembering to bring his girlfriend Vera (Kelly Hu) with him. Vera has her own set of problems stemming from the fact that Sam left in the first place, though it is never really made clear why.
Sam never really seems to do anything in this movie. He does meet a very interesting collective of characters, all played by a venerable who’s who of Asian American actors, but none of the characters are ever developed, or stick around long enough to have any sort of impact on the story. Sam’s big plan, which the whole plot of the movie sort of hangs on, happens in a montage to end the second act.
Lee makes very interesting visual choices, and does a great job of integrating still imagery into his film without making it look like a slide show. The editing of the dialogue works well, and he seems to be able to get solid performances out of his players. Leonardo Nam seems to be getting better with each role, but he is unfortunately underused in this film.
This film was one I have been waiting to see for a long time. I have fond memories of Lee’s work in “Yellow.” It was the first film that ever showed Asian American characters as I knew them. It made me believe that we could be in movies and that our stories could be told on screen. “Yellow” was a movie that inspired a lot of Asian American kids to not only become filmmakers, but to tell their stories as they envisioned them. Eight years later Lee seems to have come undone with “Undoing.” Maybe there was too much time off. Lee shows that he has a good visual style as a director, he just needs to get a solid story to tell again.