As the country begins to explore the idea of movie-making, Mongolian cinema is increasingly adept at taking advantage of foreign concepts and storylines, while still featuring a localized flavor for their native audiences. That trend continues on with a gritty, enjoyable horror-tinged thriller from writer/director Ulziibuyan Tserendendev that touches on several distinct styles of similar genre films in its own unique manner.

Growing up in an orphanage, two boys and a young girl develop a strong bond with each other that fully cements itself once they escape from the clutches of a serial killer that was prowling the neighborhood.

Now adults, Delgunuu (Uuganbavar Enkhbat), Galaa (Urangoo Batjargal) and Malaa (Misheel Tugsbaatar) have gone their separate ways, with Delgunuu involved with the mafia and the other two happily married with a daughter, they find their lives intersecting again when she becomes the target of a perverted serial killer. With Delgunuu using his skill-set to free her, the inability to have Malaa and Galaa killed off brings the group together again into a deadly race to solve the mystery of the past in order to get away from their situation alive.

Overall, this was quite an enjoyable effort. One of the strongest elements present is writer/director Tserendendev’s script which offers a somewhat enjoyable main idea. Exploring the idea of the vagrant, homeless children that are running wild in the streets that initially sparks the policeman’s interests in the savage serial killer stalking the city, is a novel idea of bringing about their connection. Intersecting the two storylines as the idea of the killer meeting up with their lives on the street and how the kids are forced to grow up through their connection together offers a fine counterbalance to the emotional setup of their predicament. When the flashback to their childhood encounter with the thugs that ends up bonding them together, there’s a fine realization that occurs which causes the story to make sense and brings the thriller elements into greater focus.

As well as the fine work in the screenplay, there’s also a lot to like with the idea of those thriller elements. What we’re shown of the main killer in here, ranging from the perverted nature he displays towards his targets to the abduction and torment he inflicts on his captives while in his possession, leaves a suitably nasty impression. There’s also an added quirk of accompanying classical music to the sequences, which is a trope utilized in other similar genre entries around the world. “War” then offers a wholly engaging series of tactics to still present a monstrous persona to the local audience while still employing enough commonly-associated elements to allow foreign viewers to get the point. With the idea of meeting up with the killer as adults brought up, the film adds some extra life to these sequences as the emotional turmoil required to save Galaa’s daughter while he races to clear his name starts this off on a wild, over-the-top finale.

The final half hour kicks into high-gear as the tone switches from gritty suspense/thriller to a wild action film. Once Galaa realizes that Delgunuu is still on his side and not everything was as it seemed, they’re able to reunite their friendship in a truly outstanding action sequence that offers plenty to like. This sequence ends up offering plenty of stunt-work by the Action Team which shows various performers falling down scaffolding, climbing over walls and even mixing in some martial arts techniques in an extended confrontation in the abandoned factory. As the performers look credible performing such feats and the action intensifies in their quest to escape which is tied to the emotional turmoil of the finale incredibly well, this sequence emerges as the film’s highlight and really holds this up overall.

There are some problems throughout the film. The biggest issue here is the fact that the disjointed narrative manages to make a twisting and confusing storyline all the more troubling. This is done by never making sure to remind viewers of what’s going on for large periods of time, dropping through various time-periods and flashbacks that are never identified or differentiated so that it’s easy to tell where we are in the timeline. Having to backtrack and realize the purpose of a scene minutes afterward is a dangerous proposition, as that can cause the audience to potentially miss what’s going on, a facet that creeps into the film in the finale. This is where all the different flashbacks explaining the grand motivation make this part drag on for far longer than necessary, by offering new elements and payoffs to what we’ve already known. This is the main factor that really holds the film back.

With an engrossing, if somewhat scattershot mystery, some thrilling action and a generally overall fun time, “War: Dain” offers up a rather enjoyable experience overall. Give the film a chance if you’re a fan of these kinds of disorienting revenge/thrillers or looking to expand your viewing habits to the country’s efforts, while those not interesting in the style should heed caution.

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