Aug 18, 2017
Jang Dong-gun in "V.I.P." (Warner Bros. Korea)
" has been one of the much-anticipated films of the year for its star-studded cast and fresh subject of a high-profile North Korea defector, as well as being acclaimed director Park Hoon-jung
's latest work.
Park wrote the screenplays for "The Unjust" and "I Saw The Devil," both 2010 films by master directors Ryoo Seung-wan and Kim Jee-woon, respectively, and helmed "New World," a 2012 crime thriller that swept many awards at home and abroad.
For the new film that he wrote and directed, Park expanded his trademark on-screen world where law enforcement authorities collude with crime organizations for their own gains to an international level. Sadly, he has not spent the same energy to update his crime thriller. Park's tale is rife with stereotypes, and his story is stale.
Actors Kim Myung-min (L), Lee Jong-suk (C) and Jang Dong-gun as Chae I-do, Kim Gwang-il and Park Jae-hyuk, respectively, in "V.I.P." (Warner Bros. Korea)
"V.I.P." portrays the veiled enmity among intelligence agencies of South Korea and the United States, and police authorities of the two Koreas over a North Korea defector who is the son of a key political figure.
The talented young man Kim Gwang-il (Lee Jong-suk
) gets VIP treatment after his defection to South Korea organized by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency and South Korea's National Intelligence Service for a purpose other than simply escaping the North Korean regime.
After his entry, however, a serial murder case rocks the country and every piece of evidence points to Gwang-il being a key culprit of the murders. But whenever Chae I-do (Kim Myung-min
), a police superintendent who leads a special probe team on the case, tries to arrest Gwang-il, he is hindered by Park Jae-huck (Jang Dong-gun
), an NIS agent who is behind Gwang-il's defection and wants to cover up the murder to collect high-quality information on North Korea from him.
Actors Jang Dong-gun (L) and Peter Stormare in "V.I.P." (Warner Bros. Korea)
And things get more complicated with the involvement of Paul Gray (Peter Stormare), a CIA agent who also needs the information owned by Gwang-il, and Li Dae-beom (Park Hee-soon
), a North Korean police officer who secretly crosses the border into the South to track him down. Gwang-il also was the prime suspect of a series of rapes and murders of young women that took place in North Korea, but Li was demoted and lost his subordinates for tenaciously trying to bring the son of the ultra-powerful man to justice.
The movie quickly tells the story by editing it into five chapters. But its lack of suspense and familiar and flat characters lessen the audience's interest in the action noir.
Its main antagonist, Gwang-il, feels just like the North Korean version of Jo Tae-oh, an arrogant and cruel chaebol heir played by actor Yoo Ah-in in director Ryoo Seung-wan's 2015 mega-hit action film "Veteran." Chae, the hot-tempered and righteous cop in "V.I.P.," matches Seo Do-cheol (Hwang Jung-min) in "Veteran."
"V.I.P." is also somewhat like "Confidential Assignment" (2016) for its plot involving cooperation between a cop from South Korea and one from the North to track down a North Korean criminal in South Korea. Although the two cops in "V.I.P." do not show off such a close friendship as the one in the 2016 movie, the North Korean cop helps the South by providing decisive evidence in the serial murder probe.
Actor Lee Jong-suk in "V.I.P." (Warner Bros. Korea)
Jang Dong-gun faithfully delivered his character who has an internal conflict after realizing that the defector whom he brought to South Korea was in fact a psychopath serial killer. But audiences can hardly understand his agent character's change of mind, and he looks more like an ordinary company worker rather than a well-trained spy agent.
The film appears to cover up its shortcomings with unabashedly violent scenes, close-up faces of brutally killed women and a drawn-out scene of a woman being strangled to death.
"V.I.P." is scheduled to hit theaters Thursday.