Genre: Action and Horror Running Time: 1 hr. 56 min.
Release Date: August 7th, 2020 MPAA Rating: Not Rated
Director: Sang-ho Yeon Actors: Dong-Won Gang, Jung-hyun Lee, Re Lee, Hae-hyo Kwon, Min-Jae Kim, Gyo-hwan Koo, Do-Yoon Kim, Ye-Won Lee
s zombies (created through a runaway virus) have overtaken the entirety of South Korea, the panicked, remaining survivors flee to the ports to escape to Japan or North Korea – places they hope will be havens from the murderous monsters. Jung Seok (Dong-Won Gang) and his sister’s (So-yeon Jang) family manage to board one such ship, though they soon learn that they’re being rerouted to Hong Kong. And, sure enough, one of the passengers on the lower deck is infected, steadily transforming into a blood-lusting zombie.
The claustrophobic train to Busan has now shifted to a slightly wider ocean-bound vessel, where nearly identical tragedies strike. Within just the first few minutes, overdramatic deaths plague the happenings, fueled by practically gravity-defying, break-dancing zombies, who mutate and writhe with little contaminative consistency; the virus’ behavior seems to affect people very differently. But this is merely the setup – or the recap. The story proper begins about four years after the initial zombie outbreak, when Jung and his dead sister’s husband, now stranded in Hong Kong, decide to recover missing cash from a truck in order to fund a return to the peninsula, where it’s rumored that the southern region might be an isolated refuge. And they have just three days to complete the mission, from which they’ll receive a multi-million-dollar cut.
Jung’s team of four start out by finding an abandoned car, with which they drive through a post-apocalyptic wasteland, where buildings and vehicles remain broken down and dilapidated; nature has overtaken crumbling infrastructure; and the general stillness is disturbed only by the sudden, jarring shrieks of agitated zombies. There are a few ground rules, such as the flesh-eaters being blind at night (or as long as there is darkness), but several inconsistencies still arise, such as what exactly it takes to awaken slumbering creatures – whether it be sounds or close proximities or warm bodies. Once again, however, it’s not just the walking dead that pose problems; humans tend to provide bigger predicaments and pose more frightening elements of villainy (typified by the goofily merciless Sergeant Hwang [Min-Jae Kim] and the wackily moody Captain Seo [Gyo-hwan Koo]).
Amid the anticipated, considerable violence, humor also crops up, largely provided by an eccentric old commander (Hae-hyo Kwon) and his granddaughters Jooni (Re Lee) and the precocious Yu Jin (Ye-Won Lee), who don’t seem to take their situation seriously – the latter two managing to utilize toys and sarcastic dialogue to enliven their morbid existences (a contrast to their stern mother, Min Jung [Jung-hyun Lee]). But ghastly subplots, such as gladiatorial games and warring military factions, routinely move things back into the realm of “The Walking Dead” and other established zombie properties. Sadly, this picture’s greatest failure is that it’s unable to distinguish itself from previous (and ongoing) franchises; almost nothing here feels original.
The zombie-based horror is still moderately effective (practical effects certainly work better than the CG, which is far more predominant), but these characters and their scenarios struggle to appear as anything other than additional adventures from overly familiar storylines. The heroes are sympathetic and the antagonists despicable, but only because they’re supposed to be; their actions and personalities rarely summon anything more complicated or nuanced. And the finale, though it boasts some occasional excitement, features locations whose layouts make no sense; a “Mad Max” vibe that creeps in, making use of so much computer animation that car chases look like video game footage; a pointlessly excessive focus on the main villain, as if his role is the most important; and a pitifully overdramatic death scene (mirroring one from predecessor “Train to Busan”) that reenforces the notion that this follow-up ultimately has little to offer in the way of expanding the universe or relating worthwhile new concepts.
– Mike Massie