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DVD Review: NATURAL CITY

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PHOTOGRAPHY

NATURAL CITY

DVD Review by David Blackwell

DETAILS: 113 minutes, Story of Natural City documentary, cast interviews, deleted scenes, original theatrical trailer, and Tartan asia Extreme previews.

STUDIO: Tartan/ Tube Entertainment/ Jowoo Entertainment

RELEASE DATE: 4-18-2006

NATURAL CITY is visually amazing. In a way, it is a South Korean twist to BLADE RUNNER. It's not as good as Ridley Scott's classic was, but director Byung-Cheon Min comes up with one of the best flawed sci-fi action movies from Asia. The cyborg bad guy isn't sympathetic like BR's replicant Roy Batty (Hauer). Every character lacks the ability to be totally sympathetic except for Ria/Lia, but their lack of emotion might have to do with how R and Noma are emotionally cut off.. Yet NATURAL CITY is derivative and it feels like a BLADE RUNNER rip-off. Humans in love with cyborgs, advertising of going to a new world in another solar system (Koyo- the planet of Rebirth), flying cars, and a cyborg who wants more life. NATURAL CITY is a homage due to the fact that it touches a different type of story underneath all of the elements that spell rip-off. It deals with how a man deals with impending loss over someone he loves dearly. He can't see how he could live without her if she dies. He grows desperate. The director was inspired by a newspaper story of a guy committing suicide after his pet died. He took that and ran with it. It became a tragic love story wrapped up in a sci-fi action film. The story is what sets NATURAL CITY apart from so many BR rip-offs.

R (Ji Tae Yoo) is part of the military police and Noma (Chan Yoon)is his commander. R is kinda of a jerk lately as he is harvesting AI chips from dead cyborgs to save his cyborg lover, Ria/Lia (Rin Seo). Cyborgs aren't built to last and lose all of their memories before shutting down after three years. Meanwhile, evil cyborg Cyper is looking for a human whose L sequences matches him because a way has been found to transfer memories to a human being. R and Cyper are after the same woman, Cyon, a poor non-citizen who makes her living by selling her body in the ruined part of the city. Noma is trying to stop Cyper from executing his big plan that will spell disaster for the city. The flaw with Noma is he is a cold-hearted military man only interested in duty and serving his country above all else. The chemistry between Noma and R lash out in NATURAL CITY as each believe they are doing what they think is right. The look of the city and the ruined part of the city are beautiful. The sets and places used help ground the film in a 2080 that could exist in the future. Solid action scenes mixed in with tragic love, top notch production design, and a world where hope is small makes NATURAL CITY a unique homage to BLADE RUNNER that mostly rests in it's impressive visuals with a script that could have been better. Not even close to the quality of writing of BLADE RUNNER.

VIDEO: 2.35:1 (Anamorphic Widescreen)

Solid transfer with some grain and OK image detail.

AUDIO: Korean 5.1 Dolby Digital, Korean 5.1 DTS

Subtitles: English, Spanish (feature only)

Audio track is OK (some surround action where the soudn of the rain stands out the most), but the English subtitles aren't perfect. A couple of times, the sentences don't quite connect right while the special features show a complete different spellings for two characters from the film's subtitles.

SPECIAL FEATURES: THE STORY OF NATURAL CITY (around 23 minutes) takes a look at the filming of the models and miniatures in the film and a behind-the-scenes look at the action sequences. The director explains how he came up with the ideas for the story and what the title means. Cast and crew interviews are also featured (with everyone hoping the viewers enjoy the DVD at the end of the featurette). Also among the extras are cast interviews for Ji Tae Yoo, Chan Voon, and Rin Suh. Five deleted scenes (six minutes) focus mostly on character scenes between R and Ria or Ria and Zion. The fifth scene is a kinda of a giveaway scene that didn't need to be left in. I'm always happy that Tartan includes the original theatrical trailer. Tartan Asia Extreme previews for Ab Normal Beauty, Vital, Marebito, Oldboy, and Spider Forest are also included on this DVD.

FINAL ANALYSIS: Despite being a South Korean homage to BLADE RUNNER, NATURAL CITY is a visual masterpiece.

this review is (c)4-12-2006 David Blackwell and cannot be reprinted without permission (except for excerpts and a link to the review). Look for additional content at http://enterlinemedia.livejournal.com and send all comments to lord_pragmagtic@hotmail.com