Story: In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) became a contract killer after he had been dropped by the Korean secret service. His last job as a killer is to eliminate a Japanese gangster boss. The job goes well and now In-nam wants to emigrate to Panama. But then an old contact gets in touch with him and tells him that his ex-girlfriend Yeong-joo (Choi Hee-seo) wants to talk to him. In-nam ignores the request and he doesn't know that Yeong-joo got pregnant before they separated and that he has a daughter. Yeong-joo is desperate because her child Yoo-min (Park So-yi) was kidnapped in Bangkok. Eventually, she gets a call. The kidnappers demand ransom and Yeong-joo goes to the meeting place without the police. Shortly afterwards, In-nam gets a call telling him to pick up his ex-girlfriend's dead body because he is listed as her emergency contact. He learns about his daughter and immediately flies to Bangkok in order to find the kidnappers and his child. But then he gets another call from his previous client, who informs him that his last target had a brother. Ray (Lee Jung-jae) is also known as the "Butcher" and follows In-nam to Thailand. First, In-nam doesn't care about that, and instead gets himself a tourist guide called Yui (Park Jung-min), who wants to finally do his sex change surgery with the promised money. Soon, In-nam does not only have to take care of Thai gangsters, but also meets Ray, who is a very dangerous enemy...
Review: Since the various "Taken" movies at the latest, the genre of the former black ops killer, who has to save his daughter (or sometimes also other family members), has become a little worn-out. Hwang Jeong-min ("The Spy Gone North"), however, didn't have the honor of portraying a somewhat ageing action hero yet. In the end, you only get exactly what you could expect from such a movie: a good portion of action. But Hwang's talent as an actor is wasted. Basically, you can't really criticize "Deliver Us From Evil" unless you expect more than action. Maybe even a little bit of heart. Or originality. It is probably obvious what this criticism is trying to say. There's little reason to watch this movie unless you're really into well-done action cinema. Because the physical clashes during this rollercoaster ride are pretty nice.
As soon as we are in Bangkok, a certain familiarity sets in. The orange-yellow filter over the images, the stuffy heat that somehow makes you aggressive just watching the protagonists sweat, and the somehow generally dirty and illegal activities in the city - all this is probably all too familiar to most viewers. Of course, our story's hero has little to worry thanks to his particular set of skills. At least not when it comes to the gangsters who kidnapped his daughter. But there is also his last victim's brother. Lee Jung-jae ("Svaha: The Sixth Finger") plays the "Butcher" with an interesting combination of calmness and restlessness. You don't want to cross paths with someone like him, and after the actual highlight of the movie, when he has slaughtered his way through a horde of wanna-be gangsters, even the last guy should have realized that you should be afraid of Ray. In addition, Lee simply knows how to show off his martial arts expertise during the fight scenes.
Of course, there are also some clashes between Ray and In-nam. One fight would have been too little, so the two keep coming to blows. Is that somehow motivated by the script? No, instead it seems as if an unidentified power keeps bringing the two together. So, the script certainly doesn't win any prices for diligence. The script is generally written pretty lazily, and in addition, the story bears a striking resemblance to the Hong Kong thriller "Paradox" of the SPL trilogy. All the coincidences that happen sometimes even spoil the movie's fun factor. Towards the end, classic mistakes are made all the time and as a viewer you always know immediately what consequences the characters' somewhat incomprehensible decisions will have. From time to time, it even feels like the movie takes the viewer for a fool. In addition, Ray and In-nam have a good portion of 80s in their blood, which means that they can easily take stab wounds, gunshot wounds etc. and go on. But nowadays, moviemakers can only get a away with this by winking at the audience.
Moreover, it is simply impossible to ignore the lack of realism of this action flick, which otherwise seems to take itself very seriously. Machine guns shoot at In-nam's car from every angle for something that feels like an eternity, but hardly anything happens to the driver. Ray's grimness drives the movie forward as much as the hero's desperate search for his daughter. There is just one tiny problem. The obvious drama that is supposed to be there is hard to detect. Movies like "The Man From Nowhere" have been able to do much better in this respect. At least, the movie is always fast-paced and the adrenaline level is constantly kept high. The action also knows how to convince with its kinetic energy. This relates to both the gun fights as well as the fist or knife fights. Hwang may not be an action hero, but thanks to well-done directing and doubling the speed of the images just before the impact of a punch, we get the necessary force behind each hit.
"Deliver Us From Evil" would have profited from a little bit more work on the character backgrounds, though. The flick simply lacks a heart. A small positive surprise, however, is Park Jung-min ("Time to Hunt") as a transgender tourist guide who has a lot of fun playing his role, and apparently also improvised a lot, which provoked interesting reactions from Hwang Jeong-min. He gives the story a little bit of heart and he clearly owns quite a few scenes, even though he shouldn't be the one dominating those moments. Otherwise, this action flick doesn't show us anything that we haven't seen before. However, the level of violence is chosen nicely, it is not too over-the-top, but it is also reminiscent of Hong Kong flicks, which actually makes the knives involved come across as pretty dangerous. As an action movie, I can only recommend "Deliver Us From Evil" to any fan of the genre. But as a movie in general, there are simply not enough new ideas that would earn it a place on a list of successful movies of 2020.