Reviewed by

Christopher Armstead

I really like a lot of the stuff coming out of South Korea.  With Chan Woo Park’s, and soon to be Hall of Fame Inductee ‘Old Boy’ leading the list, South Korea is becoming a force to be reckoned with in the international film community.  ‘Natural City’ is a huge, sprawling Sci-Fi epic from director Byung-Chun Min which is truly spectacular to the eyes, but as a movie, maybe not so spectacular.


In the year 2080, Cyborgs and Humans coexist with cyborgs doing most of dirty work, sweeping the streets, swabbing the toilets and being the whores.  They are pretty much programmed to short out after three years to prevent any kind of uprising, but as these things tend to happen, a group of special cyborgs, the combat cyborgs lea by the vicious cyborg Cypher (Doo-Hong Jung), believes the three-year rule is whack, and decides it time to end it.


Opposing the cyborgs are the Military Police led Noma (Chang Yun) who is saddled with the unenviable task of bringing down a host of enemies with 100 times the ability of an ordinary MP, programmed to do one thing, and do it violently.  Complicating matters for Noma is that his most gifted MP, R (Ji-Tae Yu), has fallen in love with the erotic dancer cyborg, Ria (Rin Sao), who is nearing the end of her run. R no longer cares about doing his job, and has made extending Ria’s life his number one priority. 

The key to both extending Ria’s life and Cypher’s cyborgs lies in the DNA structure of the wayward human prostitute Cyon (Jae-Un Lee) as R and Cypher race against each other to secure Cyon for both of their personal gains.

One of the problems with ‘Natural City’ is that a lot of what the character do or don’t do is not made very clear, and most of the time, not explained at all.  R may be a kick-ass MP but he is so derelict in his duty that most missions he goes on often leave scores of his colleagues dead.  His former best friend and present boss Noma, and the reasons why they have fallen out is never explained, nor is the reason why Noma continues to tolerates his behavior.  Also, an adequate reason is never given for why (at least for my simple brain) Cyon’s DNA is so critical to the cyborgs.  They show us some fancy CG double helix strands and pretty much leave it at that.  How exactly did R fall for Ria?  By the time we meet Ria she’s almost completely vegetative, and other than the fact she’s kinda cute, I can’t see ending humanity to save her.

The story of this movie fails miserably, but visually it’s a tour de force.  The combat cyborgs are the ultimate badasses, caving in skulls, ripping off limbs, walking on walls and the like.  This film would have worked better as a flat out, wall to wall action thriller, as opposed to the troubled love story it ends up being, but considering the scope of the few action sequences that were here, that may have been too pricey a proposition for the producers.  The CG panoramas and landscapes are simply flawless and rival any big Hollywood production and Byung-Chun Min certainly has a flair for staging top-flight action sequences.  Totally unrelated but worth mentioning though, with Cypher needing another combat cyborg, he secures the absolute hottest cyborg prostitute he could find, played by the sizzling Ju-Hye Ko, and reprograms her into one ass kicking, tight leather wearing, human disposing machine.  Well Done.

This film is worth watching for the visuals alone, and though it’s a disappointment, considering with been coming out south of DMZ as of late, it still entertaining enough to warrant a watch.

NOTE:  On the DVD 'making of' extras, the director, crew and cast were repeatedly apologizing for this movie, promising to do a better job next time.  This was a bit odd to see.  I can’t recall the Warshowski brothers apologizing one time for Matrix Revolutions.

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