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Review: 'Tower' collapses under its own special effects

The Korean action film 'The Tower' is heavy on effects but thin on story.

January 10, 2013

Sentimental and jokey until it rains hell on its high-rise-trapped characters, the Korean action epic "The Tower" recalls the heyday of Irwin Allen's '70s reign as the Master of Disaster.

When a pair of luxury skyscrapers is set to open with a lavish Christmas party involving helicopters raining snow on partygoers, signs of schematic drama lurk: a kind-faced building manager/widowed father (Kim Sang-kyung) forced to work the party instead of be with his moppet daughter; faulty architecture that a real estate kingpin would rather ignore; a dedicated firefighter (Kang Young-kee) who'd rather leap into the fiery breach than deal with his failing marriage.

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When things go kerblooey, director Kim Ji-hoon wastes no time setting up explosive peril involving elevators, window-washer scaffolding, controlled flooding and a fragile sky bridge. Whether 11 years after the World Trade Center is too soon for anyone to be entertained by incessant catastrophe and grim sacrifice in a tall, collapsing building is another matter entirely.

"The Tower" may be skillfully executed as an effects-laden opus, but its miniature portraits in courage are ultimately too jerry-built to feel like anything but filler between the combustive set pieces.

Robert Abele

"The Tower." No MPAA rating; in Korean with English subtitles. Running time: 2 hours, 1 minute. At Edwards University Town Center 6, Irvine.


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