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Ordinary Person - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Bo-tong sa-lam

South Korea 2017

Drama, Crime

Kim Bong-han

Son Hyeon-joo
Jang Hyeok
Kim Sang-ho
Jo Dal-hwan
Ji Seung-hyeon
Oh Yeon-ah
Ra Mi-ran
Kang Hyeon-goo

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Ordinary Person

Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 1

Story: It's the year 1987 and Detective Seong-jin (Son Hyeon-joo) didn't get a winning hand in life. His wife is mute, his son hobbles and he doesn't have money for surgery. Moreover, he let a criminal escape and in order to advance his promotion he wants to sell mentally deficient Tae-seong (Jo Dal-hwan) as the wanted man. Seong-jin's good friend Cho (Kim Sang-ho), a reporter, gets to know about this and talks some sense into the detective. Seong-jin actually manages to find the real culprit then, but suddenly Tae-seong confesses a murder. Shortly thereafter, the agency for national security contacts the detective. Seong-jin is taken to Namsan, a place notorious for confessions of collaborating with communists being tortured out of innocent people. There he meets ruthless investigator Gyoo-nam (Jang Hyeok), who has already risen in rank at a young age. He hands the policeman a file in which Tae-seong is linked to a whole series of killings. Now, Seong-jin only needs to produce evidence and witnesses. His new position gives the detective certain amenities, but soon his reporter friend informs him about inconsistencies in the alleged serial killing...

Filmroll Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 2 Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 3 Filmroll
Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Korea needs to process quite a few decades of history, in which the struggle for democracy is shed light on, although even nowadays with all the multi-billion dollar companies there is a lot to be improved in respect of equality before the court. "Ordinary Person" takes the 80s and shows the fight of a few individuals against a corrupt system which sees communists at every corner if it helps its own agenda. What easily could have become a patriotic work like "May 18" at first presents itself as a thriller, yet soon becomes an obvious drama which has its focus on only a few individuals and brings their world-view to the screen in a to some extent impressive fashion. The protagonists are written very well and the actors also deliver outstanding work.

Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 5

At first, the movie might seem to be the backround story of a villain. Seong-jin is a man who has been born into a time in which policemen are constantly beating suspects, and this becomes already obvious in the introductory sequence in which the policeman enters the station and goes to his desk while throwing punches in every direction. This may have comedic features at first, but when later on a confession is beaten out of a mentally challenged criminal, you will choke on your laughter. It's easy to comprehend why someone like Seong-jin can't resist the temptation of working together with Namsan agents. He has always got the short end of the stick and he finally can get a slice of the cake which he was denied up until now. His mute wife and his hobbling son may actually be piling it on too much in order to underline his suffering in life, but at least we start to understand his motivation and why he becomes more and more of a villain.

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Son Hyeon-joo ("The Phone", "Chronicles of Evil") delivers a fantastic performance in his role and manages to showcase more complex emotions as well as remorse and an inner struggle through subtle acting. Seong-jin may stray off the righteous path on several occasions, but he works well as someone you can identify with at all times. A true hero, but only to be seen in a more extensive supporting role, is the reporter, played by Kim Sang-ho ("Moby Dick"). On the one hand it's funny to see him with full hair in the 80s, when it was in vogue to wear a toupee, on the other hand he succeeds in showing his honesty and willingness for self-sacrifice with just one glance. The reporter always makes sure that his old friend, the detective, stays on the path of righteousness and when taking a closer look he is also the story's actual hero.

Ordinary Person - Film Screenshot 7

Jang Hyeok ("Innocent Thing") depicts the villain. Besides a certain intensitiy and ruthlessness, with which he in fact manages to attract the viewer's hatred, he can't stand out with much. Yet, his character shows certain motives. "Ordinary Person" is suprisingly unpolitical, which doesn't mean that politics wouldn't be a big topic of the movie, though, but standing more in the foreground is the exchange between the individuals which makes the movie so thrilling and interesting. Particularly, watching Seong-jin on his path of becoming a villain is extremely nerve-racking. Apart from that the movie has also a few twists in store which at times turn out to be some strong meat. But this shouldn't really surprise anyone since the agency for maintaining national security plays a major role in the movie and therefore torture is also one of the subjects. Yet, the movie refrains from showing any explicit scenes.

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If you want to know more about the Namsan unit you should watch "National Security". In contrast to that movie "Ordinary Person" is aiming more at creating a big drama with its characters, which will definitely make you hold back one or two tears out of outrage and anger. Apart from the finale, which almost doesn't know when to put an end to things, director Kim Bong-han also doesn't lay it on thick. The well written characters, a nice score that isn't too obtrusive and an eye for details concerning the recreation of the 80s make this drama a well done picture about the fight for justice and democracy. And this works especially well since the movie is doing its stuff within a small framework and only towards the ending shows us what kind of an uproar the actions of an "Ordinary Person" can create.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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