When his pregnant fiancee (Oh) is violently murdered, secret-service agent Soo-hyun (Lee) quietly decides to get revenge. He quickly finds the serial killer, Kyung-chul (Choi Min-sik), but instead of turning him in, Soo-hyun launches torturous catch-and-release vengeance. As brilliant as his plan is, he fails to count on the fact that the villain is even more pathologically evil than he is, and both men find themselves pushed far beyond their limits as the balance of power shifts between them. Meanwhile, Soo-hyun's boss (Chun Ho-jin) is on their trail.
From the beginning, we understand that Kyung-chul is a blunt, merciless monster ("Why shouldn't I kill you?"), as he callously goes about his grisly business.
But of course Soo-hyun is just as coolly professional, fuelled by big emotions that he's trying to subdue in order to give Kyung-chul a taste of his cruel medicine, as if he'd ever get the point. And he's also haunted by his mentor (Chun Kook-hwan), the former police chief who was also his future father-in-law.
Despite some plot inconsistencies, director Kim assembles this with the same slick and inventive skill that both men devote to their actions. It's a gorgeous-looking film scored heavily with pitch-black comedy and palpable emotions. So we're drawn in even as what happens on-screen challenges us in brain-bending ways. Several of the increasingly violent set pieces are deeply disturbing in the way a variety of depraved characters victimise both men and especially women. The body count is almost mind-boggling, although neither killing nor dying is ever depicted in a simplistic way.
So even though we are engaged by the story, what we see is often very hard to watch. There's some pretty unspeakable horror in this shocker of a movie, especially as the good guy becomes pretty monstrous, dishing out (and receiving) physical, psychological and emotional terror. Is he still the hero, or has evil won? And as the horrifyingly squirm-inducing ending approaches, the film cleverly looks at the nature of revenge as well as the natural result of it.
Run time: 141 mins
In Theaters: Thursday 12th August 2010
Box Office USA: $0.1M
Distributed by: Magnolia Releasing
Production compaines: Softbank Ventures, Showbox/Mediaplex, Peppermint & Company, Siz Entertainment
Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5
Rotten Tomatoes: 80%
Fresh: 64 Rotten: 16
IMDB: 7.8 / 10
Director: Kim Jee-woon
Producer: Kim Hyun-woo
Screenwriter: Park Hoon-jung
As with his Formula One documentary Senna, filmmaker Asaf Kapadia cleverly uses archival footage to...
This declining franchise really needed a jolt to the head, but the producers disappointingly opt...
Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and...
Wacky enough to make us smile but never laugh out loud, this screwball comedy harks...
A relentless onslaught of violent action, this movie is notable mainly because there's a woman...
First-time feature filmmaker John Maclean takes a strikingly original approach to the Western, creating a...
Despite this being a film about Sherlock Holmes, the fact that it's not much of...
Both shameless and shamelessly entertaining, this relentlessly boyish movie carries on exactly as the TV...