Saturday, February 3, 2024

A Bromantic Ride: Ransomed (2023) Review

Director: Kim Seong-hun

Notable Cast: Ha Jung-woo, Ju Ji-hoon, Lim Hyung-kook, Kim Eung-soo, Kim Jong-soo, Park Hyeok-kwon, Fehd Benchemsi, Burn Gorman

This is a much better Point Men. South Korea has been on a kick with patriotic diplomats rescuing fellow Koreans in a foreign country that is at war films. It's become a relatively popular genre in the last handful of years, and I've watched most of, if not all of them. For me, what makes Ransomed work so well, and what helps to set it apart from the norm, is the blooming bromance between Lee Min-jun (Ha Jung-woo) and Kim Pan-su (Ju Ji-hoon). Their characters feel typical of the genre, but they both give admirable performances and their chemistry is electrifying, which really help this 2hr and 15min journey feel well alive and constantly moving forward. Ransomed is one of the better offerings in this genre, and I think it is worth seeking out, even if you haven't been the biggest fan of these types of works.

Lee Min-jun is a budding diplomat who is trying his hardest to be someone. When everyone and everything seems to be working against him and his desires, one day, he receives a life-changing call. A fellow Korean diplomat is being held hostage in Beirut, Lebanon, from the war that had broken out two years prior in 1986. Seizing the opportunity to finally get his big break, Lee heads deep into the country on a highly intense mission with a large bag of ransom money. When he arrives, things go as wrong as one could imagine and he is thrust deep into a large-scale shootout and ultimately a run for his life; Lee happens upon a man in a taxi named Kim Pan-su, coincidentally a man of Korean heritage, and one with deep ties to Lebanon. The two meet by fate and find themselves on an action-packed journey to rescue a hostage who has since been forgotten about. Soon, news breaks, and the entire country has its eyes on them.

As previously mentioned, Ransomed doesn't do much to set itself apart from the other films in the same vein, but it is so easy to get pulled into the story at hand, with Director Kim's strong and assured direction, and once more that brilliant chemistry between Ha Jung-woo and Ju Ji-hoon. Kim and Ha have worked together previously, and their collaboration here felt like a no-brainer. Ha is a truly versatile actor, and you could tell he was having a ton of fun here. There is a lot of comedy throughout, mostly situational between our two leads, but things do get quite intense and reasonably often, leaving for this exhilarating sense of pace that seldom seems to let down. It is a decently long movie, but you don't really feel the run time. It's a road movie with some immensely high stakes and danger lurking around every corner. This film never paints the Lebanese as barbaric or beneath the Koreans. It gets patriotic, and maybe some would even say it teeters on propagandist leanings, but you never lose sight of what the bad guys want, and again, the terrorist threat feels very real. Some factions and people come to aid our heroes, and how that is handled is just as competent and believable as everything else.

It's all quite formulaic, yet it is directed and performed so well across the board that you get swept away in it all. The argument could certainly be made for that 135-minute runtime being shortened and further tightened on the editing room floor, but as it comes, I found it to be compelling from start to finish. I liked the characters and loved the set pieces scattered throughout. It's a fun buddy actioner set in a war-torn country with lots to love. People who don't typically engage with these types of films won't find much new here to latch on to, but for those willing to give it a shot, Ransomed is a tense and fun ride to go on and one that gets a strong recommendation from me, to the right crowd of course. Well worth a look.

Written by Josh Parmer

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