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A Man of Reason - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2022

Crime, Action, Drama

Jung Woo-sung

Jung Woo-sung
Kim Nam-gil
Park Sung-woong
Kim Jun-han
Park Yoo-na
Lee Elijah
Ryu Ji-an

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A Man of Reason

A Man of Reason - Film Screenshot 1

Story: After ten years in prison, Soo-hyeok (Jung Woo-sung) is free again. He goes to see his then-girlfriend and finds out that he has a daughter. Soo-hyeok therefore decides to cut his ties with organized crime, and for this purpose seeks out his former boss, for whom he went to prison. The boss doesn't really want to let him go, though, and decides that his right-hand man Seong-joon (Kim Jun-han) should keep an eye on him. Soo-hyeok tries to reconnect with his ex-girlfriend, who is seriously ill, and wants to build a relationship with his daughter. However, it doesn't come to that. Seong-joon feels like Soo-hyeok is looking down on him and he also wants to prove himself to his boss. Thus, he hires the two assassins Woo-jin (Kim Nam-gil) and Jin-ah (Park Yoo-na) to kill the ex-gangster. Not only do a lot of things go wrong at that, but the killer couple eventually even kidnaps Soo-hyeok's daughter. Since Soo-hyeok gets his hands on Woo-jin, a prisoner exchange is soon arranged. As expected, the killers are not to be trusted, and soon Seong-joon gets involved too because he finally wants to see results. But Soo-hyeok is not someone who dies that easily...

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A Man of Reason - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Even though the title of this action thriller is quite unoriginal reminding you of "The Man From Nowhere" to name but one example, the story sounds all too familiar and the movie also has visual similarities to other works of the genre, I still hoped for an entertaining genre entry. I was even willing to approach the movie a little more favorably, because it's the first time actor Jung Woo-sung sits in the director's chair. Unfortunately, only absolute genre fans should give this movie a try. Because absolutely everything seems hackneyed here. It starts with the story, which is so thin that it was hard to write a summary without being finished after three lines. In addition, we know the hook just too well enough: Former gangster who wants a fresh start, but just can't escape from the clutches of his boss until he is forced to go on a revenge campaign because the only thing he has left is taken from him. In this case, a daughter. Anyone who thinks that the extremely thin plot gets embellished by various action scenes will be disappointed.

A Man of Reason - Film Screenshot 5

You won't find any action in "A Man of Reason". Only in a short flashback Soo-hyeok, being armed with a flashlight and a knife, is allowed to fight his way through a group of gangsters in the dark. Or later, he is doing donuts with a car in the foyer causing some chaos among gangsters. If you are nice, you can even call both of these scenes quite imaginative. However, a chase through a tunnel, during which small homemade bombs are thrown, clearly shows what the problem of this flick is. The action doesn't exude any kinetic energy, everything seems without impact and not very captivating. Surely this is also due to the characters, who are all replicas at best and don't manage to evoke any emotions. The gangster couple is most likely to do so, but we are not interested in whether they live or die either. Jung Woo-sung ("Hunt") is known for playing rather quiet roles anyway, but he never impresses with extraordinary subtlety when doing that. So you can roughly imagine how uninspired he approaches the role of the quiet ex-gangster who fights for a bit of happiness in life.

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Above all, the one-dimensional characters prevent us from warming up to the movie, because "A Man of Reason" actually wants to be an action drama. This already becomes clear by the leisurely pace at the beginning, which wants to build up a certain atmosphere. Jung also takes a lot of time for this, and a few shots at night also seem quite well-done, but neither do the characters grow in those scenes, nor does the world of this flick get enriched in any way. It's as if he had tried to give the typical gangster world a certain twist through visuals, like in "Night in Paradise", but failed at it. At the latest when Soo-hyeok stands in front of his former boss, we also realize that the dialogue doesn't provide any added value either. It's not just that the writing is mediocre at best, the scenes also feel rehashed. Since the story doesn't progress any further, and the dialogues aren't interesting - and we have already written off the characters too -, the only thing left is the action, which, as mentioned before, disappoints all the way through.

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But maybe you should give the movie credit for the fact that at least something small always happens at all times, so that you don't fall asleep. With its principle of karma and some coincidences, the ending even gets a touch of a Hong Kong flick and actually manages to score some points with that. Still, the revenge part is missing here, which was obviously once intended as a central theme, but probably got lost in the scriptwriting somewhere. Soo-hyeok is also constantly described as a dangerous opponent, but the scriptwriters forgot to write a scene into the story that would support this image. As it is, the ex-gangster is defeated most of the time, or constantly has to flee and doesn't have any convincing action scene. All doors would have been open to the director to turn the story into a meditative journey, in which Soo-hyeok finds himself and forges a bond with his daughter. But the latter in particular can't work when the daughter is with her kidnappers for the whole movie. So you simply can't make out what idea or theme Jung Woo-sung wanted to follow in his debut work.

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Ultimately, you have to ask yourself, of course, what motivated Jung to go into the director's chair for this story. It will be difficult to find an answer to that. The characters only consist of archetypes without any depth, and there is no suspense at all. The direction seems as if the movie wanted to simulate some polished images and tried to suggest some kind of significance through slow pacing. It all seems very half-baked, almost naively cobbled together. The only reason why "A Man of Reason" isn't an absolute disaster is probably the fact that the visuals and plot evoke a sense of familiarity. But the various scenes come across as sketches that lack color which would have given them some substance. Maybe substance wouldn't even have been necessary, but at least a few action scenes that could actually create suspense. So, all that's left is an all-too-typical genre work, which only manages to make you feel thankful that it doesn't exceed the 100-minute mark.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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