R-Point cast: Woo-sung Kam, Byung-ho Sohn, Tae-kyung Oh, Won-sang Park, and Seon-gyun Lee director: Su-chang Kong 101 minutes (18) 2005 widescreen ratio 1.78:1 Tartan Asia Extreme DVD Region 0 retail RATING: 7/10 reviewed by Alasdair Stuart

Hailed as one of the Asian blockbusters of the year, R-Point arrives in this country with nothing but good word and a great deal of hype behind it. The question is, does it live up to it?

Set during the Vietnam War, R-Point follows a squad of Korean soldiers sent to retrieve a missing unit from the island of ‘R-Point’. Led by a stoical sergeant and a lieutenant with a reputation for bloodshed, the men picked for the mission are almost at the end of their duty and eager to get home. Needless to say, the mission doesn’t go as planned.

R-Point’s biggest strength is its unusual viewpoint on a very well known period of history. The Vietnam scenes drip with atmosphere, neatly combined with some knowing sops to convention. The squad sent to R-Point are fresh out of central casting, from the Sergeant with a secret to the inexperienced rookie, the heavy weapons expert and the veteran who isn’t what he appears to be. The film makes no bones about this and as a result, it actually gains an instant advantage over a lot of its contemporaries. It looks like a Vietnam movie, moves like a Vietnam movie and as a result is far more attractive a prospect for casual viewers.

Once the group reach R-Point the tension is nicely built through a series of gradually darker incidents and some nice moments of knowing humour. The best example of this is a scene where three soldiers are apparently out on watch at night. They get into a near-argument then one stands up, pulls his trousers up and walks off.

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The others then do the same. The film is at it’s best in these quiet character moments and it’s a shame that there aren’t more of them.

It’s a shame then that the film quickly becomes a fairly conventional piece of horror. There are some great moments here but they never really gel, a situation not helped by the generic character names. As the film enters its final half-hour it’s difficult to keep track of who’s dead and who isn’t, a situation not helped by a couple of poorly explained plot twists. Whilst the ending redeems this to a large extent, it remains a problem in a film that could have been so much more. As it stands, R-Point remains an interesting but flawed entry in the Asian horror canon. Worth a look, but don’t believe the hype.