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Decibel - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2023

Action, Thriller

Hwang In-ho

Kim Rae-won
Lee Jong-suk
Jung Sang-hoon
Park Byung-eun
Lee Sang-hee
Jo Dal-hwan
Kim Seul-gi
Shin Yun-ju

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Decibel - Film Screenshot 1

Story: During a military exercise, Commander Kang Do-yeong (Kim Rae-won) has to save himself and his men from a torpedo that was fired at their submarine. One year later, Kang is still hailed as a hero, despite having lost 22 of his men. He has since left the Navy and is racked with guilt for the decisions he made back then. Suddenly, a stranger (Lee Jong-suk) calls his cell phone and gives him the choice between two bombs that are about to go off. Either one on a playground or another one at the house of one of his former men. When one of the bombs goes off, Kang knows that the man is serious. After that he is once again supposed to decide between the bomb on the playground and one in a football stadium. The bomb in the stadium is triggered by a decibel sensor, and while Kang starts searching for it, he unexpectedly gets some help from one of the spectators, the journalist Oh Dae-oh (Jung Sang-hoon). The journalist stays at his side and tries to lend him a hand, as he wants to secure the exclusive rights to the story about the bomber. In the meantime, Kang's wife, the bomb expert Jeong Yoo-jeong (Lee Sang-hee), is on the playground trying to defuse the bomb. She finds out that her daughter has been kidnapped by the bomber. Apparently, the mysterious caller is pursuing a personal vendetta related to the events from a year ago in the submarine...

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Review: "Decibel" is one of those suspense-driven action thrillers which makes it hard to say afterwards whether you actually liked it or not. First of all, there is simply too much that we already know all too well from the genre. Secondly, the movie could have been more original, as the noise-sensitive bombs could have been used as a nice tool to give the suspense a special touch. Thirdly, the whole story is based on revenge, an aspect which is not entirely understandable in the way that it is presented to us. And fourthly, everything gets quite melodramatic towards the end. On the other hand, the movie mostly has the right pacing and there are always new developments. Unfortunately, the whole thing is not as memorable as the bomb chase in "Die Hard III", for example. The characters, especially the protagonist, seem quite one-dimensional as well.

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The hero of the story has some kind of secret, and since the antagonist wants to take revenge on him for something, it is also somewhat difficult for us to root for Kang. We soon learn that the torpedo fired was actually one from South Korea itself which got misdirected. The fact that Kang also keeps this a secret from the media - at the command of the government, of course - cannot be the only reason for Tae-sung's (which is the villain's name) hatred. It's not until late in the movie that we find out about the real reason. However, it is not really a twist or surprise either. Screenwriter Lee Jin-hoon generally seems much more convinced of his ideas than is actually appropriate. With regard to the name of the villain, there is a very unconvincing mix-up, too, and the fact that Kang himself does not immediately know who the caller is also seems pretty weird given the past they share. But that's just one of the many issues that come with the script.

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Kang is supposed to install an app on his cell phone so that he is only able to call the bomber. But this obstacle is quickly overcome when other cell phones constantly fall into our hero's hands. In addition, he is not supposed to contact anyone, but with the journalist he immediately has a right-hand, who supports him diligently (even though in one situation Kang almost had his daughter killed), but there are no consequences for breaking those rules. Isolating the hero and playing a psychological game with him seemed to be the basic idea of the plot, but it is discarded at the very first opportunity. The bomber is not clever in other respects either. Ultimately, Kang never has to seriously choose between two options, but instead he always finds a middle ground, which completely ruins the moral dilemma he is supposed to face.

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Tae-sung doesn't really seem to know what he wants either. Thus, he thinks that he needs to participate in a brawl with the hero during a pointless finale, which completely goes against his original plan and makes no sense whatsoever. But the important thing is that he finds the time to do his hair between the various encounters with Kang… Lee Jong-suk ("V.I.P.") should not dwell on his former profession as a model in his movies and, above all, he should finally choose roles in which he can actually prove that he can act. The way it is, he once more remains colorless. Kim Rae-won ("Gangnam Blues") has to play a hero with a big secret, which makes it hard for him to actually carry the movie. In addition, it looks like he is grinning involuntarily during various scenes, which can be quite irritating. But maybe it's just his way of making fun of the poorly written script...

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Towards the end, there are some pretty long flashbacks, which try to focus on the drama, but it does not work that well. There are no surprises, and at the very end, things even get overdramatic. All this does not sound very exciting, but most of the time, "Decibel" has a good pace, which director Hwang In-ho ("Monster") even manages to keep up throughout most of the movie. The action isn't that bad either, even though some of the explosions are obviously CGI. "Decibel" pretty much looks like a blockbuster, but it uses too many clichés - of course, the hero's wife and child have to get kidnapped too - and also struggles with an implausible script. Considering the title, the focus of the flick should lie on noise-sensitive bombs, but if you look for the thrill of bombs being defused, you will be disappointed. Which just leaves us with some forgetful evening entertainment for all those viewers who simply want to watch an action thriller (with bombs) again.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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