Attack the Gas Station! (1999)

Had this film been made in the States, it would probably have had a different and much more upbeat ending; one in which the central characters (four youths whose hands are definitely the devil's workshop) had learned something about life and become better people for their experiences one night during an extended gas station robbery. One of them, God forbid, might even have fallen in love. The actual ending to Attack the Gas Station! is somewhat less optimistic, although it is, to some extent, a happy one. I won't spoil anything further except to say that this is a comedy – dark, brutal lessons about life and death are not to be learned while you watch.

The teenagers (early twenty-somethings?) in question are four street toughs who knock over an all-night gas station, terrorizing its employees and seizing the night's cash proceeds. The raid is such a success that, a short time later, the somewhat-better-dressed street toughs decide to do it again. This time, though, they hold the employees and station owner hostage in the back office while they pose as pump attendants and collect cash from the customers. Their belligerent collective attitude (and general ignorance about the workings of a gas station) soon widens their circle of hostages, and before long there are more people involved than can be easily contained by four men, however tough they are. Things get a bit slow in the middle, but stick with it. The giant fight scene, the location-related payoff, and the ending credit cookies are worth a few minutes of focused attention.

Tai Seng is notoriously inconsistent about the quality of their DVD releases. A film made in 1999 should look a lot better than this on DVD, and they certainly could have done a better job with the sound, but the material manages to overcome the occasional gritty or fuzzy picture and the mediocre stereo mix. Home theater purists might want to hunt down the SpectrumDVD import release, which is reportedly superior. You can listen to the soundtrack in Cantonese or Mandarin, but alas, not the original Korean. English subtitles can be turned off.

The only extras on the disc are a couple of trailers for other upcoming Tai Seng movies. You must watch them in order instead of selecting them individually. I suppose it's enough that Tai Seng released this disc at all, but I couldn't help wishing for a little bit of info on the film's cast or crew. Even some text biographies would have been better than nothing. All in all, a middling presentation of an above-average flick.

Chris Holland, 8/14/2002