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A Company Man - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2012

Crime, Action, Drama

Lim Sang-yoon

So Ji-sub
Lee Mi-yeon
Kwak Do-won
Lee Kyeong-yeong
Dong Jun
Han Bo-bae

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A Company Man

Story: Ji Hyeong-do (So Ji-sub) works for a company that from the outside seems to devote itself to normals tasks. In fact their trade is contract killing, though. Hyeong-do is one of the best of his profession. One day he is assigned to get rid of his young partner, but his partner asks him to do him a favor. Hyeong-do is supposed to hand over the money his partner saved up to his mother Yuk Mi-yeon (Lee Mi-yeon). As he meets Mi-yeon, Hyeong-do understands that she was a singer back in the day, and by chance even one that he liked very much.
When a colleague after the death of his son wants to quit his job at the company as his job now seems meaningless to him, Hyeong-do is assigned with the task to take him out. But the contract killer finds himself in a life crisis as well and his interest in Mi-yeon becomes stronger every day. The boss of the company is thinking very highly of him, even though his direct superior Kwon (Kwak Byeong-gyoo) has a problem with him. Eventually, Hyeong-do's crisis makes him end up in a situation in which he becomes disloyal to the company and suddenly finds himself to be the one who is to be put away.

Review: Melodramas with a contract killer setting are by comparison rather rare. "A Company Man" tries to blend action and drama and for most part it is even successful in this attempt. Just a rather heavy-handedly written screenplay makes the movie trip occasionally so that the focus isn't that clear at all times. Strangely enough the movie's true strength comes to the foreground during the sparingly utilized but evenly distributed action scenes. The action is very nice to look at and is slick as well as rough and smash-mouth style. Without a doubt, here you will find some of the best action scenes out of Korea that you have seen in the last few years in the genre. So what remains apart from a mediocre written script? A visually fantastically filmed revenge thriller!

A Company Man - Film Screenshot 11

But let's get back to the story: In its core it's about a man who is solely living for his work and eventually has to ask himself if this really is supposed to be all in his life. Hyeong-do is always dressed like your typical white-collar worker and thus stands as the archetype of your ordinary Korean. The emptiness he feels and his sudden desire for an identity aside from that his work gives him can therefore be understood as criticism on society. In other words the movie also wants to convey the message that you shouldn't sacrifice your life for work. Since this could have become a bit boring in a simple story of a worker Hyeong-do is a contract killer. But this doesn't change the fact that this action drama is for most part quite tranquil.

A Company Man - Film Screenshot 12

Of course it is extremely difficult to win the viewer over with a main character that kills other people for money. Thus, we never see Hyeong-do kill anyone with his own hands if he isn't a murderer or otherwise a "bad" person. That's a bit of a shame because even if you still bear in mind that he surely had to kill innocent people in his life as well, otherwise he couldn't have risen in the ranks of his company, Hyeong-do lacks that visible tainted. So Ji-sub ("Always", "Rough Cut") yet manages during some moments to make the ambivalent aspects of his character or the mistakes this individual made in the past flash up with his behavior of a man disconnected from the world and the fact that he is a man of few words. At first his character proves to be a bit too shallow for us to be able to relate to him, though.

The sometimes almost meditative looking movie, Hyeong-do's search for more in life and his emerging doubts about what he does for earning his living are carried by some very beautiful pictures, which catapults director Lim Sang-yoon right to the top of Korean directors with his debut work. However, he maybe better had left the writing of the script in the hands of someone else, because sadly it's especially the implemented romantic story that is realized rather sloppily. Mi-yeon has to be at least in her mid-thirties, we get to know that she was eighteen when she gave birth to her son, who worked alongside Hyeong-do for one job and who most likely is eighteen now as well. Hyeong-do himself, at least in the case of actor So Ji-sub, is of the same age, but his juvenescent hair cut and facial features make him look a lot younger. This could have given the love story more color, in the end it just seems odd, though.

A Company Man - Film Screenshot 13

The love story lacks any good moments, accordingly it stagnates and doesn't contribute anything. It is a whole different story when it comes to the action which is choreographed very well and with a modern approach, has some good pacing to it, thanks to fast cuts, and interesting camera angles spice them up even more. In other scenes the innovative fade-ins and outs as well as camera work attest to the technical finesse of the film as well. You can't get enough of the action, luckily there is a very neat and appropriately long showdown. Despite the message "A Company Man" wraps up, the filmmakers didn't reinvent the wheel, only the ending is unusual, but unfortunately also implausible. A better written screenplay could have worked wonders, but thanks to the visual expertise and great action "A Company Man" is nonetheless absolutely recommendable.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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