To compare PENINSULA to its wildly popular predecessor Train To Busan would be a disservice. It is a vastly different film that infuses the same inventiveness and energy into a new genre at the risk of losing the audience. You see, the second film in Sang-ho Yeon and Joo-Suk Park‘s Korean trilogy focused on a zombie outbreak on a commuter train headed to the city of Busan. Peninsula picks up four years later after the zombie outbreak has overtaken the Korean peninsula and has been contained within its borders. Following the post-apocalyptic template rather than the zombie tropes from the first film the flesh-eaters are sidelined we get a heist action movie with bad guys, cage fights, car chases, and plucky survivors. Not bad, just very different.
The film opens with a gripping flashback intercut with a clunky talk show interview that fills the audience in on the state of the 4-year-old zombie disaster in Korea. Army officer Jung Suk (Dong-Won Gang) and his brother in law Cheol-min (KIM Do-yoon) escape the disaster on an American army vessel. Four years later they are treated as diseased pariahs scrounging in the streets of Hong Kong just to stay alive. A smarmy crime lord approaches them with the tantalizing proposition to join a band of criminals in heading back to Seoul to retrieve 20 million US dollars that is just sitting on a street amidst the rubble and decay for a hefty split. With nothing left to lose, the two agree and head back into the zombie wasteland.
Upon arrival, the zombies are the least of their worries as the pair are ambushed by a criminal gang made up of survivors known as the 631. The gang absconds with the money and takes Cheol-min as a prisoner. In the melee, Jung Suk is scooped up by two resourceful young girls in an SUV. Jooni (LEE Re) and Yu-jin (LEE Ye-won) demonstrate their skill and creativity in navigating the zombie wasteland and take Jung Suk home to their family friend Mr. Kim (KWON Hae-hyo) and mother Min Jung (Jung-hyun Lee). The stage is set. Jung Suk must rescue his brother in law and get the money back from the 631 while saving the survivors who saved him from certain death. Again, what zombies?
Screenwriters Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon must be given credit for not letting expectations confine where their story decided to venture. With the same keen eye for plot structure and pacing the creative duo, with Yeon directing, deliver a white-knuckle adventure movie that is much broader in scope than Busan if a little bit more playful in tone. The baddies are gun-toting loudmouths who bark orders at their subordinates. Our hero Jung Suk is the brooding soldier with a dark regret simmering inside of him, yet he still has a soft spot for the young kids in his protection. Ratcheting things up is an epic 20-minute car chase sequence that careens in and around the dilapidated, zombie-infested wasteland of downtown Seoul. This scene exemplifies what audiences will either love or hate about PENINSULA. The action is relentless and entertaining, but zombies are but another obstacle to the heroes as opposed to THE obstacle.
If one goes in with a clear eye and no expectations based on Busan, you will have a great time. This is another chapter in story from the world-building that Joo-Suk Park and Sang-ho Yeon began in 2016, with a decidedly different, yet just as interesting flavor.
6 out of 10
|Runtime:||1 hr 56Mins.|