Korean horror/thriller is a fun, if not extremely derivative, sequel to the 2016 zombie outbreak flick Train To Busan. This installment takes place four years later with the Korean Peninsula abandoned and quarantined by the rest of the world. A barren, zombie infested wasteland. Ex-soldier Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won) now lives in Hong Kong, with his brother in-law Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon) and the two relocated Koreans are treated like outcasts and live in squalor. A local mobster offers the duo a chance to make enough money to get themselves out of the gutter. They and some other expatriated Koreans are tasked with going back into the quarantine zone and retrieving a truck filled with $20 million in American dollars. The heist goes awry and Jung-seok finds to his horror that there are two groups of survivors still living there, a family he’s encountered before and an ex-military unit who may be more dangerous than the hordes of flesh eating undead. Can Jung-seok, Chul-min and their new allies get out alive against both hungry zombies and crazed soldiers?
Yeon Sang-ho again directs with a script from he and Park Joo-suk. This sequel isn’t quite as much of a roller coaster ride as Train, but is still entertaining. While Train put a fresh coat of paint on the well-worn zombie sub-genre, Peninsula seems content to spin a yarn that is parts of Romero’s Day and Land of the Dead, a large portion of the Governor story arc from The Walking Dead and part Road Warrior with a last act truck chase. The film is more concerned with the drama between the human factions and while there are plenty of zombie’s, they do take a back seat to Jung-seok and pretty survivor Min-jun (Lee Jung-hyun) trying to get the truck and Chul-min back from the Unit 631 compound, which is run by the vicious Sergeant Hwang (Kim Min-jae) and demented Captain Seo. It’s entertaining, yes, but seems far less fresh and far less energetic than the previous flick. Train was nothing new, but Peninsula seems to make less of an effort to revitalize it’s familiar tale. Another thing that holds it back is a heavy use of only moderately effective CGI. A lot of the zombie action and the truck chase at the end are obvious CGI effects and it takes away it’s effectiveness. The truck chase looks like a video game at times and it keeps us from being too drawn in like Road Warrior‘s intense chase finale. In between we get innocents forced to battle zombies for entertainment and a preconscious child who always outsmarts and saves the adults. There is a lot of bloody violence, but nothing too gory and Yeon Sang-ho does paint an impressive apocalyptic picture of the abandoned and zombie infested South Korea. The movie adds the appropriate melodrama with Jung-seok haunted by his past, and his link to Min-jun and her daughters. This gives the film a little emotional content and at the end we are entertained, but it is far less memorable than it’s predecessor.
The cast are all solid. Gang Dong-won makes a good hero as the guilt-ridden, ex- soldier Jung-seok. He plays his inner turmoil well and he is a good action hero. Lee Jung-hyun is a solid heroine as mother and survivor Min-jun. She’s tough and quite the fighter, but still has her humanity. Lee Ye-Won is cute and thankfully avoids being annoying, in the precocious child role of younger daughter Yoo-Jin and Lee Re is likable as her tough teen sister Jooni. Kim Do-yoon is also fine as the embattled Chul-min, who is captured by Unit 631. Rounding out are Kim Min-jae as the cruel and vicious Sergeant Hwang, who is Sang-ho’s equivalent of Day of the Dead’s Captain Rhodes, and Koo Kyo-hwan as the desperate and deceptive Captain Seo. A good cast.
So, in conclusion, while it’s not an equal, Peninsula is still an action packed and entertaining sequel to Train To Busan. While it’s predecessor also reused a lot of ideas from past zombie epics, it seemed far fresher than the recycled ideas do here in this second installment. At almost two hours long this is still a fast paced and sometimes bloody adventure, though not quite as energetic and intense as Train To Busan. Familiar, not quite as energized, but still fun.
Rated 3 (out of 4) bullets, which a lot of fly in this movie.