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Commitment - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2013

Thriller, Drama

Park Hong-soo

Choi Seung-hyeon
Han Ye-ri
Yoon Je-moon
Jo Seong-ha
Kim Yoo-jeong
Lee Joo-sil
Jeong Ho-bin

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Story: Ri Myeong-hoon (Choi Seung-hyeon) is the son of a North Korean spy. Ri's father has been accused of beng a traitor and died in the South. In order to redeem himself and his family name the 18-year old boy is sent to the South. His mission is to find and kill a man who is assassinating secret agents of North Korean unit 8. For his cover Myeong-hoon has to go to school where he meets the girl Lee Hye-in (Han Ye-ri). Hye-in is bullied by her classmates and Myeong-hoon has to bear quite some bullying, too - being the new guy in class - in order not to blow his cover. Somehow a friendship slowly starts to develop between him and the girl. However, Myeong-hoon can't deal with those kind of things since he needs to find the assassin. At the same time the police also has to deal with the killings. Detective Cha (Yoon Je-moon) is pretty sure that there is a power struggle between unit 8 and section 35 because of political upheavals in North Korea and that this power struggle is now taking place on South Korean soil. And Myeong-hoon is right in the front line of this war.

Review: Espionage thrillers from South Korea are always good blockbuster material. Because of the country being divided there is the necessary political tension to make such movies successful after all. Moreover, it is without a doubt popular to cast young popstars as North Korean spies these days. You can think about this what you want, as long as the end product is right you can overlook this. Sadly, it is once again difficult to call this Korean thriller a well done genre effort through and through. As is the case with so many films of this kind this is partly the fault of an overall tone that isn't coherent at all times, even though in this respect the movie isn't as bad as you are used to see from other thrillers from the peninsula. Additionally, it is also the screenplay's predictability that often creates a lack of interest.

Commitment - Film Screenshot 11

Singer Choi Seung-hyeon ("I Am Sam") of the band T.O.P seamlessly fits into the league of young heartthrobs that have characterized Korean espionage movies in the last few years. "Hwayi - A Monster Boy" or "Secretly Greatly" are just two examples, but at least "Commitment" doesn't shift completely from the second half onwards to becoming a different genre movie. Yet, there are without a doubt flaws to be found concerning maintaining a coherent tone. In the beginning a few scenes at school even make you smile amusedly, but soon it turns out that the inviduals introduced there aren't of any importance. Apart from Hye-in that is, who still gets to take a backseat after this for a while.

Commitment - Film Screenshot 12

It's somewhat obvious that the story around Hye-in is about to be steered in the direction of a romantic relationship. But that isn't truely accomplished. The chemistry between the two protagonists isn't right and the characters themselves are drawn too shallow. It's simply a bit difficult to sketch a convincing romantic story for the wooden killer from the North. By itself this subplot doesn't bother that much since we experience the relationship of the two schoolmates rather as some sort of friendship. But it's the ending that out of the blue tries to give the love story between the two characters more weight than the thriller actually gave it before. That's extremely irritating and seems to be written into the movie solely in order to create some more dramatic during the finale. And this approach is only all too familiar.

This applies to the rest of the script in exactly the same way. Everything here is safe ground. The obedient North Korean spy who is deceived is a too hackneyed motive these days. Furthermore, it works better in a movie with an international flair and more action as in "The Berlin File". At times it seems that "Commitment" wants to go in a similar direction with its unyielding action. The fights are very nice to look at, straightfoward and balls-to-the-wall. It would have been great to see more of them, but somewhere from the second half onwards the thriller loses momentum. There might be a finale, but it doesn't stand out with a great shootout and can't deliver anything out of the ordinary. In fact the action scene in the middle of the movie turns out the be the true highlight of the movie.

Commitment - Film Screenshot 13

There may be some twists, but they are predictable as well. No, that's not right, you rather get the feeling that first-time director Park Hong-soo thought to have no other choice, but to stick to certain rules of the espionage thriller genre. Although his directing is actually quite neat and particularly the first half delivers some strong adrenaline-loaden moments as already stated, the movie seems alarmingly static in other respects. The characters aren't irrelevant to us but they still remain somewhat lifeless. Somewhere next to being a tough thriller "Commitment" also wants to be a teen romance and that doesn't work out. It isn't so bad that it becomes really bothersome, but the ending is still disappointing and sadly "Commitment" also doesn't feel as if being made from one piece.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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