Monday, July 14, 2014

Suspect, The (2014)

Director: Won Shin-yun
Notable Cast: Gong Yoo, Cho Hee-soon, Jo Seong-ha, Kim Sung-kyun

It’s fairly impressive that a film franchise like Bourne, despite initial doubts towards its success, would have changed the action landscape so much in the last decade. Whether those changes are good or bad is debatable depending on how you like your action direction. For me, it was a downgrade. The ‘kinetic’ camera work and relentless editing has butchered a lot of what made a great action sequence great in my opinion, but it’s a style that has latched on for mainstream audiences and it doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon. So why the hell am I talking about Bourne in a review for a South Korean action thriller like The Suspect? Well, this strong espionage flick is basically the Korean version of Bourne and while that might sway certain film fans one way or the other, it’s a film that’s definitely worth watching.

Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) has retired as much as he could. A highly trained one man killing machine for North Korea, after his family was killed he defected to the South and spends his days living a simple life as a personal driver and looking for the man who killed his family. When his employer ends up six feet deep, he’s the first one to blame for the crime. Now he must uncover the truth of a larger conspiracy in play.

Light in the dark...
Don’t misunderstand me, I had to grit my teeth through a lot of the directorial choices that Won Shin-yun used for his replication of Paul “Shaky McShakerton” Greengrass’ spastic action shooting. Luckily, I was pretty well prepared for it heading into the film so it wasn’t a massive determent towards my enjoyment of the film. Just take note that, this is the kind of film that utilizes this ‘in the moment’ high octane editing, rapid zooms, and vibrating screen.

Outside of that choice by Won Shin-yun, The Suspect is a great fucking spy flick. The film doesn’t necessarily break a lot of new ground with comparisons to the Bourne franchise repeating throughout, but the execution of the twisting plot and semi-ridiculous characters is top notch entertainment. Gong Yoo excels at the soft-spoken-but-ass-kicking hero here (complete with plenty of flash backs to various events that lead him to be who he is), but the real treat might come from Cho Hee-soon as the disgruntled military agent tasked with hunting down our hero. While his character tends to be a little cartoonish at times, he plays it with such vigor and a hint of depth that he steals damn near every scene he is in. Both of these men are surrounding by top notch secondary characters that really flesh out the entire experience.

The plot might get really ridiculous and spy cultured at times(Microfiche? Did someone just pull out a microfiche plot twist?!), but it kept me on the edge of my seat through and through. Not to mention that Won Shin-yun pummels the film with action to keep it from getting too plot heavy. It was expected that the film would have some great cat and mouse chase sequences (two car chases really punctuate this aspect), but I was mostly surprised with the stunningly well placed and choreographed hand to hand combat pieces. While the editing and shooting might have taken a lot out of action for me, I appreciate just how well these bits of martial arts worked into the plot. I’m always down for some great fist-to-cuffs in a film and The Suspect delivers.

Here's pointing at you, sir.
If you are willing to overlook the entire stylistic action choices for The Suspect, then this espionage film will entertain the hell out of you. It’s massively charismatic in the characters and plot and the film breaks for nothing in the relentless pace. The Suspect might not be perfect (the editing still grates me), but it’s otherwise a damn near perfect action thriller.

Written By Matt Reifschneider

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