Natural City

Natural City

Yu Ji-Tae, Lee Jae-Eun, Seo Rin, Jeong Eun-Pyo, Jung Doo-Hong, Ko Ju-Hye, Yun Chang
Directed by:
Min Byung-chun
Written by:
Min Byung-chun
Science Fiction
South Korea
114 minutes


Set in the distant future after a great war has ravaged the city, the film follows the actions of R (Yu Ji-Tae) as he attempts to find a cure for his dying lover, Ria (Seo Rin), a dancer cyborg who is close to expiration. A cop for a Military Police unit led by Noma (Yoon Chan), he has been stealing A.I. chips from dead cyborgs and selling them on the black market – compromising the team’s attempts to combat renegade cyborgs.
Convinced by cyborg creator Dr Giro (Jeong Eun-Pyo) that he needs the body of wayward prostitute Cyon (Lee Jae-Eun) to cure Ria, his actions become more and more extreme. The tension builds between himself and Noma, whose own personal crusade is to capture Cypher (Jeong Do-Hong) the lead renegade cyborg, and it is not long before their personal missions clash.


Openly acknowledged by writer/director Min Byung-Chun to have taken elements from Blade Runner, this visually stunning film won the Grand Bell Award for Best Visual Effects and was nominated in the Best Film Category at the International Fantasy Film Awards 2004. Big on production and budget, its visual strength however, is out of balance with the script, which lacks the depth that would make this film shine.
The post-apocalyptic landscape and divide between rich and poor provide the perfect backdrop for this sci-fi thriller. There are however some flaws in the script and scenario that detract from the film, eg. why the war happened and whether the rest of the world still exists beyond the ocean surrounding the metropolis. Whilst it is not so relevant to explain these reasons, the background to R and Noma’s relationship is omitted entirely, leaving you to wonder why these two men are friends at all and what binds them together in spite of R’s temperamental moods and aggressive behaviour. Indeed, it is Noma’s role that often seems to be more developed than R’s and holds more interest.
Yu Ji-Tae does well with what he’s given, the character of R being distinctly dislikeable – a refreshing change from the heroic lead that everyone adores. Seo Rin is accused of being under-used in her role of Ria, but the empty actions and expressions are apt for a machine that can show no signs of human emotion.
The weak point of the script for me is the lack of decisiveness on which particular relationship forms the main storyline of the film. Whilst they are integral to each other, they seem to fight for screen time, leaving the role of Cyon to seem more of a side character. Overall, the film suffers from having too many themes rather than too little.
Jung Doo-Hong, who plays Cypher, is also the martial arts director for this film, and these set pieces, often in slow motion, are exciting and and nicely executed.
It is still a film I would highly recommend despite its flaws, for it had me crying at the end even after a second viewing. It’s worth watching just for the cinematography and production alone and simply because it’s so different from any other Korean film I’ve seen.

*edited by moogles