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Broken - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Bang-hwang-ha-neun kal-nal

South Korea 2014

Thriller, Drama

Lee Jeong-ho

Jeong Jae-yeong
Lee Sung-min
Lee Joo-seung
Lee Soo-bin
Seo Joon-yeong
Choi Sang-wook
Kim Ji-hyeok
Jeong Seok-yong
Park Myeong-sin

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Story: Lee Sang-hyeon (Jeong Jae-yeong) is a single father and often gets home very late because of work. His daughter (Lee Soo-bin) isn't happy at all about that and so, as so often, she has to walk home from school alone one day. However, she is kidnapped by a group of teenagers, raped and killed. At first, Sang-hyeon can't believe that his daughter is dead and then asks lead investigator Jang (Lee Sung-min) about news of the case every day. But suddenly Sang-hyeon gets a message from the boy Min-gi (Choi Sang-wook), who participated in the kidnapping against his will. The father finds a video of his daughter in the apartment of one of the culprits, which is about to be sold. When the teenager comes home, snaps and kills the rapist. While Sang-hyeon is looking for the other rapist, Jo Doo-shik (Lee Joo-seung), the police is hot on his trails. Because even though Detective Jang can somewhat understand the father's feelings, there is no room for vigilante justice in a constitutional state.

Review: Long gone are the days, in which solely Hollywood stole from Asian cinema. Nowadays, taking a good story goes in every direction when it comes to remaking it. "Broken" is an adaptation of the novel "The Hovering Blade" by Keigo Higashino, which like the other Korean adaptations of the author's stories, "White Night" and "Perfect Number", has already been brought to screen in Japan. But revenge thrillers are simply very popular so why not capitalize on an interesting story as much as possible? Unfortunately, you can tell when watching "Broken" that a rather subtle story has been needlessly reversed into a thriller, and as such the movie just doesn't deliver the necessary suspense to remain captivating for all of its two-hours running time.

Broken - Film Screenshot 11

The themes "Broken" features demand strong nerves. Raping of minors, violent teenagers, parants that neglect their children, minors selling their bodies and of course vigilante justice. Some of these themes are merely touched upon and that's a shame since that's where the movie's true strength lies. During the more quiet scenes, in which the focus is put on the dialogues, the thriller is thus the most convincing. Yet, it lacks some real emotionally engaging moments that can carry these dialogues in an appropriate manner. The result is a thriller-drama mix that first and foremost wants to be a thriller and accordingly neglects fleshing out the characters. A bad choice as consequently "Broken" feels extremely cold and the supposedly suspenseful moments are in the end just a bit of a yawn.

Broken - Film Screenshot 12

The reason why the director's efforts don't add up is a chaotic screenplay which doesn't adapt the novel for the big screen in an appropriate way. There are constant leaps in the story while at other times the director is simply treading water. This includes some scenes that are drawn out too much like that of the father in a snowy forest. There are also several chasing scenes, but they never create the intended excitement, but instead seem unoriginal and cheap. And this even though director Lee Jeong-ho could actually prove with his debut work "Bestseller" that he has a knack for thrillers. But apparently he didn't know how to adapt Eigo Higashino's more calm crime story in a fitting manner.

Another big flaw is that the actors haven't been made use of in a meaningful way. Jeong Jae-yeong ("Confession of Murder"), like the rest of the cast, stands around with a wooden expression of disbelief most of the time, with a face full of pain or he is conveying his role sobbing. That would all be fine and well, if there were more about his role. Maybe it's also because of the cold pictures and the fact that not enough time has been spent on the characters that we can't relate to the father, even though we know that his fate should emotionally affect us. Lee Sung-min ("Howling") at least has a few moments during which we can take a glimpse at his character, but even they are rare and accordingly his role feels very distant as well.

Broken - Film Screenshot 13

Instead of trudging through the snow for minutes, the different characters could have been fleshed out in more detail and more focus should have been put on the drama. Themes that aren't for the faint-hearted and a father who every now and then cries in front of the camera simply aren't enough to move the audience. Moreover, every time "Broken" tries to underline its thriller aspects with some supposedly captivating scenes this simply doesn't work out. There are some problems with the pacing and the movie should have been cut about at least half an hour. Granted, the theme of this thriller is still interesting and controversial, but that's the effort of Eigo Higashino's story, which as already said isn't put to screen appealingly. It's as if director Lee didn't manage to capture the all consuming sadness and melancholy that constitutes the story's essence and thus delivered a mediocre thriller without any emotional impact.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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