Nowhere to Hide

Italian Premiere | Out of Competition | PART 2 - A/B side VIBES. Greatest Hits from ‘80s & ‘90s | tribute to LEE Myung-se


Guest star:
LEE Myung-se, director


Free admission.


A murder takes place on a rainy day, with a man killed and his briefcase stolen. The police suspect that rival gangs are caught up in a conflict over drug trafficking. Although there are no clues to speak of, the job of investigating falls to the violent crimes division at the local police station, particularly the stubbornly persistent Detective Woo (Park Joong-hoon) and his straightlaced younger colleague Kim (Jang Dong-gun). Over the coming weeks they will follow up all possible clues, pull in potential witnesses, and devote all of their energy and time to pursuing the elusive killer.

Nowhere to Hide is not your standard police procedural. Its style, propulsive energy and inexhaustible creativity make for an exhilarating viewing experience. This film burst onto the scene in summer 1999, when Korean cinema’s modern-day renaissance was still in its infancy, and electric word of mouth turned it into a major box-office hit. It went on to screen at the Sundance Film Festival, where it sparked just as much excitement.

Director Lee Myung-se will be the first to tell you that there is more going on in this film than just the plot. “In a Monet painting, the theme is not the water lily,” he says.

“The water lily is just the object to paint light upon. As it floats, we see its reflection on the water, and that is what we call painterly. My intention is the same. In this film, I wanted to show the filmic. The story and the characters are not the main focus of my film. Movement is.” [quoted from the film’s original pressbook] It’s true that the movement in Nowhere to Hide is remarkable. It begins with the physical performance of the actors, particularly Park Joong-hoon, whose coiled energy gives the impression of someone always ready to pounce. Even just to watch him walk is hypnotic.

By contrast, Ahn Sung-ki as the film’s villain moves with direct, deadly efficiency.

But the full expression of the film’s movement is achieved cinematically, in the way that onscreen movements are amplified by the motions of the camera and the fluid editing from one shot to the next. One could easily watch this film and focus on nothing else but the camerawork and the editing.

It’s also filled with memorable settings, including steam-filled alleys, streets lined with yellow gingko trees, and dark rooftops. Lee also makes use of such cinematically-charged locales as an outdoor stairway and a passenger train. The weather, meanwhile, shifts without warning between late-afternoon sun, silent snowfall, and heavy downpour.

Nonetheless, Lee’s quote above may be selling his story short. There’s much humor in the film, as well as finely-drawn, distinctive characters and memorable lines of dialogue.

Despite the fact that the investigation makes agonizingly slow progress over the course of many weeks, scene by scene each moment is full of life. There are parts of the film that turn quite dark, and the violence sometimes leaves the viewer feeling uncomfortable.

But it ultimately pays tribute to the sacrifice and unusual dedication shown by this colorful group of detectives.

Darcy Paquet
Film director: LEE Myung-se
Year: 1999/4K restoration 2018
Running time: 113'
Country: South Korea
24/04 - 5:00 PM
Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da Udine
24-04-2024 17:00 24-04-2024 18:53Europe/Rome Nowhere to Hide Far East Film Festival Teatro Nuovo Giovanni da UdineCEC Udine
Online in Italy until the end of the Festival