'The Interview' Hits China, South Korea Via Illegal Downloads, Draws Mixed Reviews

'The Interview' (2014)

Political comedy film The Interview, which follows a TV journalist and his producer (played by James Franco and Seth Rogen) on an assignment to assassinate North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, has been publicly denounced by North Korea and embroiled in controversy surrounding the cyber hack on Sony. The film’s release, originally slated for Christmas Day, was canceled due to threats by the hackers towards moviegoers.

"Couldn't they have done a better job making this movie?"

Hundreds of thousands of people in China and South Korea have watched illegal copies of The Interview, according to various reports. The film, which has yet to be released overseas and isn't scheduled to hit Asian theaters, surfaced on illegal file-sharing sites shortly after the film became available for purchase online Wednesday in the U.S., with reports saying more than 300,000 people in China had seen the film by Friday.

Most viewers said they watched the controversial comedy, about two journalists who are tasked by the CIA to kill North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, because of the cyberattack on the studio behind the film, Sony Pictures, which U.S. authorities have said North Korea is responsible for, according to Reuters. In both South Korea, which is technically at war with the North, and China, which is a North Korean ally but Kim Jong Un is not a popular figure, the film didn't get a very enthusiastic response, according to blog posts discovered by Reuters.

"A lot of it is unrealistic, and the people who play North Koreans are so bad at speaking Korean," a viewer wrote on online portal Naver, Reuters reported. "In the scene where Kim Jong Un gets mad … I couldn't quite understand what he was saying."

Another Naver blogger wrote, "There is no drama and not much fun. It's all about forced comedy that turns you off. Couldn't they have done a better job making this movie?"

Read more Watch Stars of 'The Interview' Hand Out Swag at L.A. Screening (Exclusive)

Meanwhile, on Chinese microblogging site Weibo, Reuters reported a viewer wrote of the film (which North Korea has previously called an "act of terror"), "An act of terror? I think only Fatty Kim should be feeling any danger."

But The New York Times found that the film had mostly favorable reviews in China.

"Perfect, the greatest film in history, all hail Sony," read one online comment, with another remarking of stars Seth Rogen and James Franco, "Their ability to amuse is out of this galaxy."

Read more Watch Seth Rogen Cheer On First 'Interview' Audience: "Thank You So F—ing Much"

On the Chinese Internet movie database Douban, the Times reported, the film has an 8.0 rating, with more than 10,000 people posting reviews. Some commenters said they hadn't seen the film but said they wanted to show support for an act of subversion against North Korea, which they seemed to support, the Times reported.