Genre: Martial Arts and Crime Drama Running Time: 1 hr. 59 min.
Release Date: October 1st, 2010 MPAA Rating: R
Director: Jeong-beom Lee Actors: Bin Won, Sae-ron Kim, Tae-hoon Kim, Hee-won Kim, Seong-oh Kim, Jong-pil Lee, Thanayong Wongtrakul, Hyo-seo Kim
alf-a-dozen DEA agents involved in a two-month stakeout of drug dealers botch an apprehension of sample heroin at a nightclub. And the illicit drugs in question end up in the hands of an exotic dancer named Hyo-jung (Hyo-seo Kim). The dealers want it back, but Hyo-jung desires a hefty cut.
Meanwhile, a mysterious gangster-type character running a pawnshop takes a liking to young Jung So-mi (Sae-ron Kim) – the daughter of Hyo-jung – a wayward second-grader in need of a father figure. Though the mother regularly flirts with the loner (who is rumored to be in hiding after upsetting the wrong, dangerous people), he doesn’t reciprocate, instead keeping to himself when it comes to his current relationships and the death of his own wife some years prior. But when the heroin kingpin’s rivals come to collect from Hyo-jung, and kidnap little Jung, it quickly becomes apparent that the bad guys messed with the wrong, random, good guy.
The film’s setup is notably akin to “Leon the Professional,” with a tough but damaged female youth clinging to the hope of an avenging savior with skills in the art of killing. So when she gets into a bind, there’s only one person she can count on. Unfortunately, the diminutive girl is soon abandoned, leaving the storyline to focus solely on bloody revenge and the backstory of the gloomy hero.
The plot continues to stay on a fairly standard course, with the complications and twists never becoming too clever or original. The protagonist is clad in black, remains perpetually sullen, speaks very few words, and is only given a name in passing (Cha Tae-sik), but he possesses incredible prowess when it comes to survival and dishing out recompense. Even though he’s occasionally in over his head, he has a way of causing major problems for the kidnappers, the gangsters, and the DEA. In many ways, he’s the stereotypical Terminator-like assassin, virtually impervious to harm (he takes a few bullets and injuries, but it fails to slow him down).
Since the film is primarily an actioner, several kung fu moments are thrown in for good measure (but not necessity). The fight sequences are brief but smartly shot, obscuring complicated martial arts choreography and gunplay with sudden flashes of movement and fast cuts. It may not have the flair and grandioseness of something like “The Raid: Redemption,” but the utter seriousness and the graphic violence of these moments certainly summon deserving comparisons. But in between the mayhem are numerous bits of exposition that detail largely meaningless embellishments about the drug trade, child slavery, and even organ harvesting. This slows down the pacing considerably, leaving a distinct wanting for more frequent adrenaline-pumping mayhem. And with violin and piano music, slow-motion, and overly dramatic nods to Hollywood filmmaking styles, the need for more action and less padding becomes paramount. At least the final showdown is over-the-top and extremely brutal.
– Mike Massie