Ha may not be as brilliant as, say, Song Kang-ho, in conveying tormented psychological inner workings of the outwardly taciturn warrior, but he still commands the screen with bristling charisma (one of his best-known, pre-stardom stage roles, by the way, was, appropriately, Othello).

The hand-to-hand combat choreography, designed by Ryoo's longtime collaborator Jeong Doo-hong and Seoul Action School, actually works better when it is essentially two people smashing each other with various kitchen implements and office tools in a narrow apartment corridor.

In the end, exciting and beautifully rendered as they are, I cannot help wonder if the movie really needed these head-spinning action set pieces.

Casually disregarded by her work colleagues, she knows that her career is going nowhere, but there's nothing she can do about it. Stranded on a beach in the middle of nowhere, she comes across an eccentric middle-aged man selling inspirational videos. How to Use Guys with Secret Tips is in some ways a fairly standard Korean romantic comedy, except that it's funnier and more engaging, and ultimately much better than you would expect.

He urges her to buy his masterwork, "Instructions on How to Use Men," telling her that it will change her life, and give her the skills she needs to find success and happiness. Director Lee Won-suk, a graduate of the American Film Institute, maintains great comic timing and even manages to keep the audience's interest in the final reels, which are a weak point of many Korean romantic comedies.

The early part of 2013 also marked the anticipated Hollywood debuts of Korean directors Park Chan-wook (Stoker) and Kim Jee-woon (The Last Stand). A) operatives headed by Jeong Jin-soo (Han Suk-kyu, Villian and Widow). Pyo barely escapes with his life, but manages to elude Jeong, obsessed with bagging him.

Although not technically Korean films, these works are of great interest to many fans of Korean cinema, so we will be providing a separate page (coming soon) for reviews of these and other "not quite Korean" films. It appears that someone in the North Korean embassy has been selling secrets and is now preparing to defect to the South.

Ryoo stumbles somewhat in a series of extravagantly ambitious action sequences that build up to the film's finale, with its occasionally haphazard continuities and CG-rendered, cheap-looking explosions. On the other hand, technical specs are dependably superior.

Another problem is the strangely unconvincing characterization of Han Suk-kyu's Agent Jeong, compared to his Northern counterparts. DP Choi Young-hwan (The Thieves), reunited with Ryoo after a decade following their collaboration in No Blood No Tears (2002), and Lighting Director Kim Seong-gwan portray Berlin, through impressively extensive location shooting, as a city pregnant with old secrets, bustling with busy population yet pocketed with dark corners and wood-paneled back rooms.

And as usual, Ryoo Seung-beom is fantastic as a sadistic, leering North Korean assassin, who perfectly captures the mock-suave panache of a European-boarding-school-educated, jet set kid easing into a life of immediate (material) gratification and criminal activities.

Indeed, Ryoo's Dong Myung-soo seems to be the perfect embodiment of the quasi-anarchic, utterly ruthless pursuit of power that seems to be the true credo of the North Korean rulers, beneath their Communist or nationalist flag-waving. Be my guest: give Comrade Dong a hug, why don't you? old dog (John Keogh) is visibly clunky, what with the former's bizarre, hiya-ol'-buddy English diction (in contrast, Ryoo Seung-beom's mannered, ersatz-Middle-European-accented "Konglish" fits his character perfectly).

All in all, The Berlin File is a flawed but terrific and gutsy espionage film.