Flu (2013)
★★ / ★★★★

It appears that one of the symptoms of Sung-su Kim’s disaster film “Flu” is identity crisis. It mixes comedy, romance, melodrama, gross-out body horror, and thrills in an attempt to grab the interest of all viewers—a losing strategy because it ends up failing to focus on what a viral outbreak should be: a terrifying, “what if” gut experience. When no longer bogged down by the winking cheesiness of the expository first half, the movie works for the most part—especially when crowds swiftly overwhelm a compact space, like a parking garage or a detention center, which usually results in a stampede. (It helps that CGI is kept at a bare minimum and actual people are cast to run around and cause chaos.) It proves there is energy and excitement from behind the camera as we are placed in the middle of the action; it captures the confusion, horror, and panic of being caught up in a wave of diseased persons. We follow three central characters: a good-hearted member of an emergency response team (Hyuk Jang), an anal-retentive doctor (Soo-ae Park), and the doctor’s adorable daughter (Min-ha Park). The approach is standard: have the uptight single woman fall for the laidback man after she recognizes how good he is with her daughter. It is as boring and uninspired as it sounds. I was far more interested in the uniformed, serious-looking men behind the action as they clash in regards to what to do with the infected (and potentially infected) before they reach Seoul. Based on the screenplay by Young-jong Lee and Sung-soo Kim.

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