Story: Inspector Sung-woo (Park Joong-Hoon) doesn't have an easy life. His wife left him years ago and his
little son needs a new liver. But Sung-woo hasn't got the money to pay for the operation. While he is trying to
extort some money from a well-known criminal, his partner, whom he left alone on patrol, gets killed by an unknown
guy. Approximately at the same time, Su-hyun (Cheon Jeong-myeong) by order of a gangster organisation stabs someone
and gets arrested while on the run. The police assumes that he is also responsible for the policeman's murder, but
Su-hyun doesn't confess.
Thereafter, Su-hyun thinks of a daring plan to escape prison. His breakout is successful and he even manages to take Sung-woo as a hostage. However, Su-hyun couldn't foresee that his hostage is extremely suicidal, as Sung-woo hopes that he could pay his son's operation with the money his family would get from his insurance when he gets killed on duty. Still, Su-hyun just so happens to save his and Sung-woo's life more than once, whereupon the two become some sort of partners. Su-hyun is willing to give Sung-woo the money he needs for the operation, while in return Sung-woo is supposed to help him find the real murderer of the cop, so that Su-hyun doesn't get the chair when he gets caught again. On their search for the real culprit they clash with a mighty gangster organisation, that isn't all too happy that Su-hyun is on the loose.
Review: "Les Formidables" is one of those typical Korean thrillers, that don't really stand out because of their
inventiveness, yet offer enough entertainment for the audience not to complain that they just spend two hours of
their live in front of a screen. But is this really enough for a recommendation? That strongly depends on what you
expect of a movie like this. Cho Min-ho's thriller struggles with some clichés of the genre, can't come up with
anything new, yet handles stuff with a good sense for the right pacing and offers some neat action sequences every
now and then, as well as some interesting characters. If there just weren't these incredibly illogical scenes, that
are first and foremost so annoying, because some of the indivduals show some serious bursts of stupidity.
Which starts rather early. Su-hyun just runs into the next policeman and confesses that he just stabbed someone, only because he wants to save himself from a bunch of gangsters who are coming after him. Wouldn't it have been enough just to ask the police for help, instead of also having to confess murder? Su-hyun isn't really the brightest, anyway, as we will have to find out. When in hospital he is handcuffed to a bed and tries to get his hands on a hair clip in order to free himself, he strangely fumbles desperately for the hairpin, instead of just pulling the sheet a little bit. It would seem that an ape would have shown more intelligence when it comes to solving problems like this...
But to be fair it's not just him showing this lack of brain power. Sung-woo's colleagues are sometimes pulling of some equally stupid stuff. Discreet observation? Well, they might have heard of it on a side note during their training, but that's about it. And so we have to bear with policemen (and women) who follow their targets with only a feet of distance between them. Furthermore, Su-hyun continuously (and deliberately) runs into the arms of the police, and yet he always manages to escape them with ease. Why Sung-woo is on the run with Su-hyun without consulting his colleagues even once, is also pretty odd and explained in a questionable way. Moreover, when he finally gets caught by his fellow policemen he is instantly released without any serious charges against him. It's all very strange...
Most things happening on screen can only be answered satisfyingly by pointing towards the script which just so happens to be in need of the actors to do this and that, without even bothering to come up with some decent reasons for their actions. In general, it is really hard to keep up with the progression of the investigation. For once, this is because we never feel involved into the story and secondly because the story-telling is just incoherent. The movie loses focus more often than it is excusable, which is why we can only stick with the two main characters and their relationship. Admittedly, this relationship works better than expected, yet also has some flaws every now and then. Su-hyun seems a bit too mysterious and cold, so that we never really know what to think of him. In fact, we actually know from the very start that he didn't kill the cop and supposedly didn't fatally injured his victim on purpose, but somehow there is still something ambiguous about him, that we can't pinpoint and which prevents us from sympathizing with him. This changes only slowly when the little love story with his girlfriend comes into play.
Park Joong-Hoon ("Nowhere to Hide", "Heaven's Soldiers") is the heart and soul of the movie and manages to play a likeable cop, who may be a little bit corrupt, but all for the right reasons. He merely wants to save his child's life. Sure, this is an extremely hackneyed and manipulative trick, which might deserve some more bad words from a critic than it is the case here, but that's just because it works out surprisingly well in the end. Moreover, Park's character of the haywire cop who has become weary of life, surely is to win over any viewer. His relationship with Su-hyun is a special one, also. Interestingly enough, Su-hyun's life-affirming attitude is just what manages to get us to relate to him in the end, as he also succeeds in giving Sung-woo back his will to live. It's an odd couple, which we might have seen in other movies one way or another, too, but that's just as it is with buddy movies. And for most part "Les Formidables" is just that.
The action scenes, especially the chasing scenes on foot, are very well done. Actor Cheon Jeong-myeong pulls off some nice stunts and thanks to the aid of some discreet CGI-usage the action looks even more spectacular. Whenever the film starts to drag a bit, we get another action filler, that gets our adrenline pumped through our veins. Unfortunately, this doesn't change the fact, that the story is just too flat to make for a two hours movie, so that in the end the movie feels just too stretched.
"Les Formidables" heads into the same direction as "Running Wild" or "Bloody Tie", is as bloody at times, but never as dark. For some reasons, with the exception of very few movies, Korea can't really convince me with its entries in the gangster thriller genre. "Les Formidables" can't change my opinion in any way. The only thing left after this two hours of easy entertainment, is the question why the movie did get a french international title. Apart from that and some nice action, there is only little to discover here, as the flick proves to be only average stuff. And nothing more.