Review by Sean Boelman
A sequel to the surprise hit 2016 South Korean zombie movie, Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula takes the series in a very different direction than its predecessor. However, despite not packing quite as much of a punch, it’s undeniably a very entertaining entry into the action-horror genre.
Set years after the outbreak that occurred in the original Train to Busan, the film follows a group of mercenaries who are sent to return to the Korean peninsula in search of a hidden cache of money, along the way encountering infected zombies and a ruthless band of abandoned survivors. Like a blend of Mad Max and a heist movie, with zombies thrown in for good measure, it may not have the most intelligent or original storyline, but it is a hell of a lot of fun.
Much like its predecessor, this film stands out from the genre because it features interesting characters that the audience will actually care about. Yet whereas Train to Busan focused on the relationships between the characters, the greatest strengths of Peninsula lie in the world-building that creates these larger-than-life characters (particularly the antagonists) who are enormously fun to watch.
Granted, the greater emphasis on action comes at the expense of the movie’s emotional impact. There are some moments towards the beginning and end of the film that try to pull on the heartstrings, but they feel much less natural than their equivalent in Train to Busan. The movie is much more effective when it is just trying to be mindless fun.
Still, the actors do a very good job in their roles. Gang Dong-won gives a great performance as the lead, having a naturally charming charisma about him. Lee Jung-hyun is excellent as his co-star, stealing the scene from the moment she is introduced. And in supporting roles, Kim Min-Jae and Koo Gyo-hwan are among the standouts.
If the film does suffer from something, it is that it is overly hyperactive. There is one point at which the movie splits into three simultaneous storylines, and it admittedly would have benefitted from some added simplicity in this regard. Still, each of the individual sections is entertaining and suspenseful, so the film never loses any of its steam.
The movie is also very impressively-made. Apart from a few shots in which the scale is a bit too big for the CGI to be realistic, the film looks really cool. This is particularly the case in the car chase action sequences, which will likely be among the most fun moments genre fans will have at the movie all year.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula is a completely different beast from its now cult-favorite predecessor. Still, it delivers on its promise of thrills, and hopefully the series will continue in similar anthology fashion.
Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula opens in theaters on August 21.
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