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Original Title:

South Korea 2022

Crime, Thriller

Kim Kyeong-won

Ju Ji-hoon
Park Sung-woong
Choi Sung-eun
Kang Hong-suk
Lee Dal
Kwon Han-sol
Lee Seo-hwan

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Gentleman - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Ji Hyeon-soo (Ju Ji-hoon) is a private investigator who accepts a simple job in which he is supposed to accompany a client to her ex-husband in order to pick up her dog. He waits in front of the house and when she doesn't come out, he decides to go check on her, but then gets knocked out by a stranger. Immediately afterwards, he wakes up with a knife lying next to him, which he touches in his confusion. He flees from the crime scene but then gets arrested by a prosecutor who received an inside tip. On the way to the precinct, however, they get into an accident and Hyeon-so wakes up in the hospital. The prosecutor is seriously injured, and it will take at least a week before he opens his eyes again. In the meantime, Hyeon-so was mistaken for the prosecutor because of his suit and the prosecutor's half-burned ID. He does not clear up the misunderstanding and learns from the police that they found a knife that they want to check for fingerprints. With his new identity as a prosecutor, Hyeon-so does not have a lot of time to prove that he is in fact innocent. He wants to find the missing woman as soon as possible, as she is the only one who can solve the mystery of what happened and would also be able to absolve him of any guilt. He finds out that the case is somehow related to the highly respected prosecutor Kwon Do-hoon (Park Sung-woong). When it comes to pinning down corrupt lawyers, the ambitious prosecutor Kim Hwa-jin (Choi Sung-eun) is never far away, though. With her and his team of private detectives Hyeon-so decides to put a stop to Kwon.

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Review: Probably because of its title, but also because of its marketing, "Gentleman" makes you think of a heist movie in which the execution of a plan is shown while explaining it, although of course something has to go wrong during the actual implementation, in the end. So, slightly meaningless entertainment, which occasionally makes you yawn because of its predictability. That's why I was surprised when the tone of "Gentleman" did not go into that direction - at least at first. The mood isn't overly exaggerated, sometimes the flick even seems astonishingly gritty, especially because of its crimes, but there is still an unobtrusive humor that always loosens things up. In addition, the performances are surprisingly good. While the latter stays that way, the movie sadly makes a few of the well-known mistakes in its second half, or rather makes use of some small clichés. The biggest problem, though, is the script's lack of credibility.

Gentleman - Film Screenshot 5

More than the first half of the story is told in a flashback, after it has already been revealed that Hyun-soo has assumed the prosecutor's identity. This is supposed to increase the suspense, because as a viewer you don't know at first what the protagonist has done wrong. But that doesn't really make things interesting, it just unnecessarily complicates the story's structure. At least that way we are presented with two different relationships to Kim Hwa-jin. The character dynamic is the real highlight of the movie and so at least in this respect the narrative structure creates some added value. However, the more the movie progresses, the clearer it gets that the story has no focus and that different elements are just wildly mixed together. The fact that the flick is not particularly complex also becomes clear as we never lose track of things. It also shows how insignificant the various twists and turns are.

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And there are plenty of twists and turns. But the huge problem here is that the decisions never really seem to be motivated by the characters themselves. Things just happen, and the audience constantly getting the run-around is also something you already expect. Anyway, if it leaves you completely cold, because the characters apparently zigzag all over the place (along the lines of "no - or is it? - certainly not - psych!"), you kind of feel like you're in kindergarten. The countless revelations and new insights about the characters, especially about Hyeon-soo, even alienate us from the individuals for whom we had actually slowly started to develop sympathy. This even goes so far that you have almost no interest in the movie anymore. Fortunately, however, lead actor Ju Ji-hoon ("Asura - The City of Madness") manages to give his character some layers and, above all, the necessary charisma.

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I was also pleasantly surprised by Choi Sung-eun ("Annarasumanara"), who doesn't just play a tough prosecutor, but someone who has been intoxicated by her own success. She thinks she's better than everyone else. While this may not earn her a lot of sympathy, it turns her into a three-dimensional character. Unfortunately, Park Sung-woong ("A Violent Prosecutor") once again plays the typical slick villain, but he also has a conversation with Kim Hwa-jin that qualitatively stands out from the rest of the movie. "Gentleman" has a few well-written scenes that, if they had been put together into a coherent whole, would certainly have made for a pretty interesting thriller. Unfortunately, and especially towards the end, the movie relies too much on set pieces which wouldn't have been necessary. With a little over two hours, it would also undoubtedly have helped if the movie had been shortened a little.

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Towards the end, "Gentleman" loses some of its steam. The twists and the resolution somehow come out of nowhere, and we therefore simply accept them with a shrug. It makes you want to go back to the beginning of the flick, when Hyeon-soo aimlessly did some investigative work with a little doggy at his side (who steals the show often enough, but without being too much in the foreground). What's frustrating more than anything else are the countless scenes that make you wonder whether you could have edited them together in a completely different way without making things less understandable. Every now and then, director Kim Kyeong-won manages to give scenes a special touch by using an unusual soundtrack. But again, these are just attempts with varying success. In the end, "Gentleman" could have been a good thriller with sympathetic characters, but the incoherent and implausible story turns it into something mediocre.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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