Review | Steel Rain 2: Summit movie review – Korean submarine thriller doubles as a pointed political satire
Kwak Do-won plays a rogue general from North Korea and Jung Woo-sung the leader of South Korea. Angus Macfadyen’s oafish US president eclipses them both
The three are held hostage aboard a rogue submarine and must iron out their differences to avert a nuclear Armageddon
In Yang Woo-seok’s political thriller, the world is pushed to the brink of nuclear Armageddon when the leaders of North and South Korea, together with the US president, are kidnapped. Held hostage aboard a rogue nuclear submarine, it falls to these commanders-in-chief to set aside political differences and prevent a global disaster.
A sequel in name only to its 2017 predecessor, Steel Rain 2: Summit reunites Yang with actors Jung Woo-sung and Kwak Do-won. This time, Jung plays South Korean President Han while Kwak heads North to portray the renegade general responsible for this potentially catastrophic coup d’etat.
The set-up is painfully convoluted, front-loaded with 40 minutes of exasperating exposition that threatens to sink the film before it has raised anchor. In short, disarmament talks between North Korea and the United States have stalled, and it falls to President Han to moderate a summit between the gregarious President Smoot (Angus Macfadyen) and the arrogant North Korean Chairman (Yoo Yeon-seok) in Wonsan.
Bursting with political rhetoric and lacking subtlety, Steel Rain 2 casts South Korea as an island of benevolent calm in a storm of egotistical excess stretching back through history as far as the writers deem convenient. As well as Washington and Pyongyang, the film jabs an accusatory finger at China and Japan as back room conspirators, while Seoul remains an innocent, if ultimately powerless, onlooker.
The film is tossed a lifeline when Han, Smoot, and the young Chairman are imprisoned in a claustrophobic submarine cabin, and a frequently hilarious chamber piece of enforced diplomacy unfolds. While Han exudes unflappable composure, the Chairman reveals a cosmopolitan sophistication and, in the film’s best running joke, proficiency for English far superior to that of his South Korean counterpart.
Macfadyen’s Smoot is the film’s trump card, as it were. His unmistakable caricature of the current incompetent incumbent is a stroke of unexpected genius. Foul-mouthed, ignorant, and incessantly flatulent, Smoot’s cartoonish boor scoffs doughnuts with lobster, and is concerned solely with making a profit.
The Koreans’ shared revulsion at this abhorrent oaf may unite the peninsula on its own.
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