Shiri (Swiri) (1999)

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Released 13-Aug-2004

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Action Main Menu Audio
Featurette-Making Of
Theatrical Trailer
Rating Rated R
Year Of Production 1999
Running Time 120:17
RSDL / Flipper RSDL (84:48) Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 1,2,3,4,5,6 Directed By Je-gyu Kang

Beyond Home Entertainment
Starring Suk-kyu Han
Min-sik Choi
Yoon-jin Kim
Kang-ho Song
Johnny Kim
Case Amaray-Transparent-Secure Clip
RPI $24.95 Music Dong-jun Lee

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 (448Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 1.78:1
16x9 Enhancement
Not 16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 1.85:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles English Smoking Yes
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

    What a disappointment! I was really looking forward to reviewing this film after reviewing Tube & Bichunmoo, and enjoying both of them. As regular readers of this site are no doubt aware, we like to keep discussion of the plot of a film separate from video quality and not let one affect the other. Unfortunately, in this case the video quality is so diabolical that it badly affected my enjoyment of the film. In fact, it gave me a headache. Despite this I will try to give you a rundown on the plot and quality of the film in general. I apologise in advance to fans of the film if my opinion is coloured by my headache.

    Shiri is a big blockbuster action film from South Korea which blitzed the box office there on its release in 1999, breaking records set by Titanic. The story revolves around the tensions between North & South Korea. The plot involves a woman who is trained by the North Korean army to be a ruthless assassin. Her name is Hee (Park Eun-Suk) and she is a one woman killing machine. She conducts many operations against South Korea and then disappears. Some time later, the assassinations start again and two agents of the South Korean Secret Service are assigned to the case. They are Ryu (Han Suck-yu) and Lee (Song Kang-ho) and they immediately suspect that Hee is operational once more. A plan is underway lead by Hee's commanding officer, Park (Choi Min-Sik) to steal a new energy source which has been developed by South Korea called CTX. Basically this is a very powerful explosive which is sensitive to light and heat. Ryu & Lee believe Hee is also involved but they have no proof. This leads to some excellent action sequences and an exciting finale in a major stadium. There are also some good twists along the way.

    This film is well made and fast paced, keeping the audience moving along quickly. It is fairly clichéd and there is not much here you haven't seen in Hollywood blockbusters except the North-South political tension. One point to note is that this film is extremely violent and definitely deserves its R rating. After the first five minutes, I was really wondering what I had got myself in for, and was very glad my wife was out for the evening, otherwise I feel sure she would have asked me to turn it off. Take into account that I am a fan of martial arts films and other action films, so I do not generally react this way to violence. By the way, a shiri is a type of fish native to South Korea and fish play a part in this story.

    Overall, this is a fast paced violent action film with many good action set pieces which I am sure I would have enjoyed more if it were not for the quality of this transfer.

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Transfer Quality


    The video quality is abominable.

    The feature is presented in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio non 16x9 enhanced which is the original aspect ratio according to the director although the IMDB lists the correct ratio as 1.85:1. Either way the difference is minimal. The box lists this as an anamorphic transfer which is wrong.

    Sharpness and clarity is the major problem here, which I feel sure is partially to do with the lack of 16x9 enhancement. From the opening credits and pre-credit sum up of the Korean situation the picture is distinctly lacking in sharpness, but the worst is yet to come. As soon as the camera pans, especially when combined with fast action (i.e. most of the time) the picture is so blurry that you cannot watch it. I found that at the end of the 2 hour running time that I had a headache. There is also grain throughout. There was some obvious low level noise, especially during the credits.

    The colour is reasonable but quite washed out, lacking brightness and good colour saturation. This would not have been helped by the lack of 16x9 enhancement.

    Artefacts are also a problem including serious moire on every television or display screen, aliasing (for example at 10:55) and regular macro-blocking.

    There are subtitles in English only which are surprisingly pretty good, fairly easy to read and in decent but not perfect English.

    The layer change occurs at 84:48 and is reasonably well done.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


    The audio quality is OK but basically mono which is not really good enough for a major action blockbuster.

    This DVD contains two audio options, a Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 soundtrack encoded at 448 Kb/s and the same in dubbed English. The dubbed version is the default but I watched the film in the original Korean with subtitles. The dub is OK, but I found it a bit annoying. Generally, this soundtrack was quite flat and very front and centre focussed. Other versions of this movie have 5.1 soundtracks (see R1 vs R4 section).

    Dialogue was generally clear but in Korean (so I couldn't understand it) and there was no problem with audio sync.

    The music by Dong-jun Lee does quite a good job adding tension as required.

    The surround speakers and subwoofer are not used.


Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use



    The menu included shots from the film and a scene selection function.

Making Of (54:17)

    This is a comprehensive making of documentary which covers casting, details of the shooting schedule and post production, actor training including martial arts and guns, stunts, special effects, injuries, make-up, music and sound effects. Interviews are included with the director, all of the stars and other crew members. The video quality is pretty poor and it includes burned in English subtitles. Warning, this documentary contains major plot spoilers!

Theatrical Trailer (1:41)

    This is the US trailer and includes an English voiceover. It is quite effective, but there are some minor spoilers.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    There are quite a few versions of this disc available on the global market. I cannot imagine that any of them would be worse than this version. The best ones seem to be as follows

    Region 0 - Korean SE  : This is a 2 disc special edition by Bitwin which includes

    Region 1 - Columbia Tristar Version, which includes in addition to the extras on the Region 4 version;

    Region 2 - United Kingdom release by Tartan which is very similar to the Region 1 version except in PAL.

    If you want to understand the extras (and don't speak Korean) either the Region 1 or Region 2 version would be the best choice, I think. Both video transfers seem to be fine based upon reviews.


    This disc contains a well made action blockbuster from South Korea spoiled by an unacceptably bad transfer.

    The main extra is a one hour comprehensive making of.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Daniel Bruce (Do you need a bio break?)
Sunday, September 05, 2004
Review Equipment
DVDToshiba 1200, using Component output
DisplaySony FD Trinitron Wega KV-AR34M36 80cm. Calibrated with Digital Video Essentials (PAL). This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 576i (PAL)/480i (NTSC).
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Video Essentials.
AmplificationPioneer VSX-511
SpeakersBose 201 Direct Reflecting (Front), Phillips SB680V (Surround), Phillips MX731 (Center), Yamaha YST SW90 (Sub)

Other Reviews NONE
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