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train to busan peninsula review
A former soldier returns to a zombie ravaged Korea to retrieve a truck loaded with $20 million.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Yeon Sang-ho

Starring: Gang Dong-won, Lee Jung-hyun, Kwon Hae-hyo, Kim Min-jae, Koo Gyo-hwan, Kim Do-yoon, Lee Re, Lee Ye-won

train to busan presents peninsula poster

The zombie craze that kicked off in the noughties with movies like 28 Days Later, Shaun of the Dead and Zack Snyder's Dawn of the Dead remake eventually decomposed around a decade ago after every hack with a digital camera decided they could make their own zombie movie, turning the genre into the straight-to-VOD equivalent of email spam. In recent years we've seen this horror sub-genre make something of a minor comeback with the likes of Little Monsters, Jim Jarmusch's The Dead Don't Die and belated sequel Zombieland: Double Tap, all of which took a satirical approach to a genre that refuses to die. The one zombie movie of the last decade that managed to be well received by both critics and horror fans alike notably played its thrills straight. South Korean director Yeon Sang-ho's Train to Busan won over jaded audiences with the novel idea of setting its zombie outbreak aboard the titular choo-choo (or should that be chew-chew?). A breakout international hit, a sequel was inevitable.

train to busan presents peninsula review

Just as the Die Hard franchise became less interesting the further it moved away from its original confined setting, so too has the Train to Busan series, but in the space of one sequel. If you thought Sang-ho's follow-up might play out in a similar setting, like a ship or a plane, you were mistaken. Instead the zombie ravaged city of Incheon provides the backdrop for a sequel that's as generic as any of the now forgotten zombie thrillers that emerged in the late noughties.

Set four years after the events of the first film, Peninsula introduces us to our handsome but bland hero, Jung-seok (Gang Dong-won). Once a soldier, Jung-seok now lives as a refugee in Hong Kong alongside his brother-in-law, Chul-min (Kim Do-yoon), who has never forgiven Jung-seok for seemingly leaving his wife and child to be munched by zombies during an outbreak on the boat taking them from Korea to refuge in Hong Kong.

train to busan presents peninsula review

When a local mobster approaches the two men with the offer of a mission to return to Korea and retrieve an abandoned truck loaded with 20 million US dollars in cash, Jung-seok and Chul-min accept. Returning to their native land, they find their mission threatened not so much by zombies, but by the violent criminal gang that now runs the decimated metropolis.

The chief influence on Peninsula would appear to be John Carpenter's Escape from New York, but it boasts none of the quirky characters that made that movie such a cult fave. Instead we get a bunch of cardboard goodies and baddies with no discernible personalities beyond varying degrees of nobility and lawlessness. Jung-seok is such a dull protagonist that it's impossible to care whether he finds redemption - he's not so much The Man With No Name as The Man With No Personality. Only Yu-jin (Lee Ye-won), a five-year-old who plays her part by distracting zombies with a selection of remote-controlled toy cars, stands out as a memorable character.

train to busan presents peninsula review

The action set-pieces are equally forgettable, too often employing second-rate CG that creates the appearance of Playstation 2 era video game cut scenes, with a discernible weightlessness to the visuals. The hordes of zombies never quite feel like a threat to our heroes, so easily dismissed and distracted are they, and the human villains are equally ineffective despite their ruthlessness. Sang-ho is working with a much bigger canvas here, but he's lost the creativity required by the confined setting of Peninsula's predecessor. This sequel is destined to take its place in the shambling horde of zombie movies cynically made to cash-in on a better example of the genre's success.

Train to Busan Presents: Peninsula
 is on Amazon Prime Video UK/ROI now.