By Kevin Jagernauth | The Playlist August 24, 2011 at 2:01AM
Film festivals are a great place to see films from around the world, and are sometimes the only opportunity to catch certain movies, since, due to the vagaries of film distribution, some pictures never get off the festival circuit or get released outside of their native country. However, this isn't one of those stories, as two terrific thrillers that premiered at Cannes earlier this year will be making their way to theaters in the U.S.
Fox International, the arm of the studio that deals with overseas releases, will give Gerardo Naranjo's "Miss Bala" and Na Hong-jin’s "The Yellow Sea" stateside releases. "Miss Bala" is a breathless piece of work, a film that definitely caught many by surprise on the Croisette back in May. Starring Stephanie Sigman and Noe Hernandez, the film follows the story of a young beauty pageant contestant (Sigman) who becomes drawn into and eventually trapped in Mexico's criminal underground. The film is a powerful piece of work, a tough look at the failing war on drugs and the many innocent lives that are swept up in the battle between the police and the crime lords they aim to track down. Naranjo directs with confidence, displaying a precise, energetic eye for action that is grounded in a harsh realism, and as we noted in our review, the film is "a magnificently paced and deeply complex portrait" of the escalating situation in Mexico.
Meanwhile, fans of "The Chaser" already know what Na Hong-jin is capable of, and they'll be pleased to find out his latest effort, "The Yellow Sea," lives up to the promise of that film and then some. The sprawling, two-and-a-half hour epic finds a man agreeing to kill somebody in order to find out more information about his missing wife, only for the plan to go terribly awry. He winds up on the run not only from the cops, but from two warring gang leaders, as he struggles to stay alive and find a way out of this mess. Set in the Yanbian prefecture, a region which straddles North Korea, China and Russia and where it is said nearly half the population is involved in some kind of illegal trade, the film isn't just a first-rate thriller, but a tough portrait of the gritty lives of those inhabitants that scrape out a living any way they can. We caught this film at the tail end of a long movie day in Cannes, and boy did it keep our pulse up. The set pieces in the film are a thing of beauty, with two car chase sequences in particular among some of the best action scenes we've seen so far this year.
"Miss Bala" hits TIFF next month and New York right after, while "The Yellow Sea" has been playing a run of festivals from Los Angeles to Seattle to Melbourne. No release dates have been set just yet. [Variety]