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No Doubt - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Simjangi Ddwooinda

South Korea 2010

Thriller, Drama

Yoon Jae-geun

Kim Yun-jin
Park Hae-il
Park Ha-Yeong
Kim Min-kyeong
Jeong Da-hye
Ju Jin-mo
Kim Sang-ho
Lee Seung-joon

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Story: Chae Yeon-hee (Kim Yun-jin) is a single mother, who made a career. However, her daughter Ye-eun (Park Ha-Yeong) desperately needs a new heart. She even turns to a dubious organ dealer but in the end, she is deterred by the fact that she would actually buy somebody else's death with her money. In the meantime, good-for-nothing Lee Hee-do (Park Hae-il) borrows money from his mother (Kim Min-kyeong), who then tells her son that she does not care about him anymore and wants to start a new life with her new husband in America. Shortly afterwards, she collapses. The doctors tell Hee-do that his mother is basically brain-dead and that it is now on him to let her go. Yeon-hee hears that Hee-do's mother would be a suitable donor for her daughter and tries to buy the consent for the transplantation. Nevertheless, at the last moment, Hee-do changes his mind and wants his mother to live at any price, so that he can make up for all the things he did wrong. However, little Ye-eun is running out of time and now Yeon-hee is determined to do everything necessary to save her daughter...

Review: If you are looking for a well-produced thriller, you are at the right place with "Heartbeat". But you should be prepared to be send off with a large dose of drama, especially towards the end. The story around an organ donor and the moral grey area a mother enters to save her child are indeed interesting, but despite all the aspired unpredictability of the director, the ending does not present itself as a surprise and unfolds just the way you thought it would right from the beginning of the movie. You cannot help but think that they really took the easy way out here. However, you have to give the movie credit for not trying to swing the moral hammer too much, but rather dealing with the topic organ trade along the way.

The biggest accomplishment of the movie is the elaborateness of the two protagonists. While Yeon-hee is enticed to turn to more and more radical means, Hee-do is slowly developing a conscience. As a result, the two of them are approaching from different directions, but still remain enemies because of the prevailing circumstances. Kim Yun-jin (known from "Harmony" or the American mystery series "Lost") is without a doubt a great actress, which she shows here once more. Nevertheless, for some reason, I just cannot watch her cry anymore. We know that she can cry on demand, but does she really have to do this during half of the movie? Even though the subject of the movie would certainly justify some tears, at some point, she is just annoying.

Park Hae-il ("Moss", "War of the Arrows"), on the other hand, only deserves praising words. He is far from being a likeable guy, his relationship with his mother is afflicted with several problems and the way he behaves towards her is anything but respectful. There seem to be plenty of skeletons in the closet but the movie only touches the surface of this. Only when his mother lies in a coma does Hee-do understand, how much his mother really did for him and so now he is not willing to let her go, anymore. He wants to make amends, but for this his mother needs to wake up first. Yeon-hee asking him to donate his mother's heart is at that point, of course, really bad timing.

This is when a wicked game between the two protagonists takes its course. The first half of the movie effectively gave us an understanding of the characters, but after that we are only presented with clumsily executed kidnappings, stand-offs and helplessness. Unfortunately, this is where the plot gets lost, which, interestingly enough, is exactly what we suspected during the first half hour of "Heartbeat" to happen in the first place. The protagonists and the viewers are presented with a lost cause and at some point, you have to wonder how this could possibly turn out okay in the end. Any sort of surprise caused by the characters' actions is only temporary. This means that towards the end everything is resolved in an artificial way, just along the lines of "nothing bad really happened here".

A good action thriller should have more to offer than stylish images and an interesting starting point for a story. Mostly, "Heartbeat" lacks action and for a thriller it puts too much focus on its dramatic moments and the fates of the daughter and Hee-do's mother. This suggests the assumption that the movie might have worked better, especially towards the end, had it concentrated itself on the dramatic aspect right from the beginning. After all, this may be the reason why thriller fans will not be completely happy with "Heartbeat". If you do not have anything against a little bit more drama, though, you will be satisfied, especially thanks to two great actors. However, the plot had a lot more potential in it.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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