Natural City
(내츄럴 시티)

natural city

Natural City (내츄럴 시티)
Made in: South Korea
Language: Korean
Director: Min Byeong-Cheon
Starring: Yoo Ji-Tae, Yoon Chan, Lee Jae-Eun, Seo Lin, Jeong Doo-Hong
Year: 2003

Synopsis: In this Blade Runner-like future, human-looking cyborgs live amongst real people and do stuff like wait tables and work as bouncers. And of course, certain female cyborgs are programmed to dance and turn tricks. The cyborgs have a limited three year life-span, and their entire consciousness is stored in a special chip that plugs into the back of the robot's head like a USB drive.

Two cops, named R (Yoo Ji-Tae) and Noma (Yoon Chan) are part of an elite squad who hunt down renegade cyborgs. Their latest mission is to track down a bad combat robot named Cypher (Jeong Doo-Hong).

But the corrupt R has a dirty secret: he secretly collects the chips of defunct cyborgs and hocks them on the black market. R, who's in love with an exotic dancer-cyborg named Ria (Seo Lin), is in cahoots with an underground scientist who can transfer the consciousness of Ria into a human host.

Since Ria is about to expire in a few days, R is driven to find Cyon (Lee Jae-Eun), a prostitute who's a human. The plan is to upload Ria's consciousness into Cyon's so she'll have a new lease on life.

But all of this turns out to be a bigger plot cooked up by Cypher, who has a plan to unleash a whole mob of combat robots on the city.

The Good: Some of the plot elements in Natural City are kind of interesting, and the deeply flawed R is an interesting protagonist.

The Bad: But overall, Natural City is pretty lame. It's really too bad, since the movie could have had potential as an entertaining science fiction movie. First off, none of the characters are particularly likeable or charismatic. The acting is pretty awful and the music is too melodramatic. The special effects are an uneven blend of "that looks pretty cool" to "that looks like something my drunken nephew made for the school play."

Without knowing what year the film was produced, I might have assumed it was made back in the 80s by a bunch of guys who were messing around and didn't know they were being filmed.

More gripes: We never really find out why R is in love with Ria. When they are together, she doesn't always listen to what he says and often does things that annoy him. By all accounts, he ought to be glad that she's finally going to shut down.

The action sequences are pretty shoddy, badly edited, and reveal a host of other flaws. R and Noma are supposedly part of an elite group of SWAT-like supercops, but their marksmanship is consistently worse than the stormtroopers from Star Wars.

Their body armor never stops anything faster than a spitball, and half the time they accidentally shoot each other. Not that I have any tactical expertise myself, but if all your guys are standing in a circle facing each other, it doesn't take a genius to figure out that it's probably a bad idea if everyone decides to fire at the same time.

Natural City is no hallmark of Korean cinema. It's slow, and unnecessarily gory. The attempts at character development are self-indulgent, boring and empty of any emotional power.

And then there's the action, which will make you think of a first-person shooter video game in multiplayer mode being played by a bunch of guys who don't know what they're doing. For fans of foreign films, or any films for that matter, I'd recommend that you stay away from this one.

(1 out of 4 stars)

Review written by: Joe Yang

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