STUDIO: Tartan Video
MSRP: $24.99
RUNNING TIME: 113 Minutes
• Cast Interviews
• Deleted Scenes
• The Story of Natural City featurette
• Trailers

The Pitch

“How can we improve upon the greatness of Blade Runner? I know! 100% more kung-fu action and blue tinting!”

The Humans

Ji-tai Yu, Jae-un Lee, Rin Seo and Eun-pyo Jeong

The Nutshell

R is a member of a special police force dedicated to destroying renegade cyborgs. Normally cyborgs are complacent and serve their human masters well until they expire in a few years. On rare occasions they decide that waiting on humans hand and foot and then dying doesn’t make for a fulfilling life. This is when they go crazy and start wire-fuing all over the place.

In a twist of fate, R has fallen in love with the cyborg named Ria. She enjoys dancing on stripper poles and staring blankly into space. Unfortunately for R, Ria is set to expire in three days. In a desperate bid to save her, R conspires with an insane scientist who has figured out how to transfer a robot’s memory into human’s consciousness. To pay for the costly procedure, R has to sell rogue cyborg chips on the black market. It would probably be a hell of a lot cheaper to just start dating a real stripper.

Crane game prizes of the future.

The Lowdown

Blade Runner managed to blend action, romance and philosophy together in a creamy, cyberpunk smoothie. Natural City attempts to do the same but the end result is a chunky mess. The individual parts of the film never manage to gel together into a cohesive whole. It feels less like a film that wanted to incorporate elements of several genres and more like a film that couldn’t decide on which direction to go in.

The hardest part of the film to accept is the main character, who is consistently unlikable no matter how heroic his motives. He supposedly loves the cyborg named Ria, but it’s anything but a whirlwind romance. Ria is programmed to dance and do little else. R doesn’t actually seem to feel very passionately about her one way or the other. He just uses her and she doesn’t feel much at all. The director focuses on the impending separation of the two lovers, not how they fell in love or why they care about each other.

Rather than sympathizing with R because he’s a devoted romantic struggling to keep his lover alive, the audience is more likely to see R as a creepy pervert. On a basic level, the film is about R committing crimes to keep his fancy realdoll alive. It only gets worse once he starts kidnapping human girls so he can replace their personalities with that of Ria.

The secondary plot of Natural City concerns a renegade cyborg , Cyper, that routinely goes on murderous sprees. Cyper seems intent on starting a cyborg insurrection and killing humans. This plot never really pays off and seems included mainly to justify several action scenes. All the combat scenes between R and Cyper don’t hold much emotional weight because they don’t deal with the romance between R and Ria. They’re hollow diversions.

Look mommy, I made you a painting!

Natural City takes its fight scene inspiration from The Matrix school of action. Be prepared for lots of slow motion shots and physically impossible jumps. The action scenes are also done in the modern action style of “lots of close-ups and fast cuts so that you can’t decipher what the hell is happening.”

This is done in a lot of films to distract you from how poorly the fight choreography is or how cheap the effects look. It’s a shame it was used here because the film’s effects are actually all really nice looking and the few traditionally filmed fight scenes are great. There was no reason to go with the quick cut style unless the filmmakers enjoy giving people headaches.

Natural City is a good effort from everyone involved. It’s a little bit too ambitious for its own good and tries to cram a little of everything into 113 minutes. Sci-fi isn’t exactly a huge genre in Korean cinema, but Natural City may be the catalyst that inspires others to give it a shot.

The Package

The artwork for Natural City tries to play off its relationship with The Matrix rather than Blade Runner. The artwork features a large ship hovering over the city with a blue tint. It evokes the imagery present in the real world segments of the Matrix films. The tagline, “The war has begun” is a little misleading as the cyborgs vs humans part of the film isn’t very central to the story.

The Discs of Tron Power Glove failed to catch on with the nation’s youth.

The Story of Natural City featurette focuses on several aspects of the film’s production. Director Byung-Cheon Min discusses how he was inspired to write the film after reading an article about a man who killed himself after his pet died. Min also discusses the hassles that come from using digital effects in a low budget production and complains about the lack of people who know how to light miniatures correctly in the Korean film industry.

A handful of deleted scenes are included. Most are filler material except for one scene that would have actually added a lot to the romantic relationship in the film. Surely one of the many slow motion roundhouse kicks could have been removed to create a space for this scene. Interviews with principle cast members round out the special features as they talk about the four year long process of making Natural City.

6.5 out of 10