Bad Movies Done Right – Tidal Wave

Every day Robert Saucedo shines a spotlight on a movie either so bad it’s good or just downright terrible. Today: Waves of Mutilation!

Tidal Wave (or Haeundae as it is known in its native country) is South Korea’s first attempt at making a disaster movie — and, in my opinion, the result is seven degrees of awesome wrapped in an ass-kick shell.

Directed by Yoon Je-kyoon, Tidal Wave is a weird animal — with special effects not quite on par with those from American disaster movies but slicker and more polished than the drek produced by independent studios such as The Asylum that specialize in direct-to-DVD mockbusters.

Tidal Wave makes up for its not-quite-video-game-cut-scene-quality special effects by working hard to connect audiences to the film’s cast of characters through elaborate back-stories that take up the first half of the movie’s running time.

Stocking up in sub-plots ranging from young love to familiar strife, Tidal Wave weaves a cast of diverse characters each experiencing their own worries — worries that will seem minuscule when their town is engulfed by a Megatsunami.

Man-sik, the film’s central character, is an alcoholic mess — torn apart by a love for a woman whose father’s death he feels responsible for. His neighbor, Dong-choon, is an irascible buffoon whose schemes have a tendency of landing him in trouble.

Hee-mi is a wealthy college student who, after falling off of a boat, falls in love with her rescuer, Hyeong-sik — a young man who happens to be Man-sik’s younger brother.

And, pushing the film’s loom disaster ever forward, is Kim Hwi, a geologist convinced the beach town of Haeundae-gu is in trouble after detecting the warning signs of an impending mega-tsunami, a storm that has the ability to travel 500 miles per hour and contains waves hundreds of meters tall. Unfortunately, Hwi has more on his plate than doomsaying — he becomes distracted when his ex-wife shows up in town for a cultural summit and is joined by their daughter, a child Hwi has never met.

Yes, Tidal Wave is chock-full of melodrama — the kind that would make Michael Bay green with envy. With an hour spent just on setting the stage for disaster, Tidal Wave spares no expense in forming a rich picture of its characters’ lives — which makes it all the more emotionally devastating when the Megatsunami finally hits and unleashes a wave of destruction upon the city.

Streets flood, boats explode, loved ones are lost — the disaster portion of South Korea’s first disaster movie fires on all cylinders.

While maybe not as visually stunning as a Roland Emmerich film or featuring less flashy camera techniques than Michael Bay’s repertoire, Tidal Wave makes up for its deficiencies with good old-fashioned cheese.

Director Yoon Je-Kyoon clearly studied at the altar of Bay — utilizing slow-motion action, a sappy score and multiple scenes of doomed lovers shouting at each other.

Combined with slapstick humor, the kind found in many South Korean films, Tidal Wave‘s melodrama helps to create a disaster movie that is entertaining to watch — never overwhelming itself with self-importance or pomp.

Tidal Wave doesn’t strive to be anything more than an ode to the cheesy overbaked spectacles popularized by American filmmakers — what’s shocking, though, is how much of the film actually manages to surpass most of Hollywood’s summer popcorn films.

By taking the approach Steven Spielberg used to such great success in Jaws and really spending the time to flesh out the film’s characters, Tidal Wave easily sucks audiences into the action and makes the film’s climax worth the wait.

Does the film get dangerously close to becoming a soap opera at times? Sure. This isn’t a bad thing, though. A bit of melodrama is good for the soul every now and then.

In fact, the only thing I felt the film was missing was a pop ballad. Maybe one by Aerosmith?

Robert Saucedo wishes his own life had a pop ballad by Aerosmith. Follow Robert on Twitter @robsaucedo2500.

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