Story: Joo Man-ho (Kim Myeong-min) was once a marathon runner, but after an injury he had give up pursueing the sport. He now works at
the restaurant of his friend Jong-soo (Jo Hee-bong) and somehow manages to get by, although he has considerable debts. However, knowing that his younger
brother Seong-ho (Choi Jae-woong) is successful makes him happy. But one day Man-ho is visited by coach Park (Ahn Seong-gi), his former mentor. He asks
him to act as the pacemaker for the star of the Korean marathon team, Min Yoon-gi (Choi Tae-joon). Man-ho agrees to help and right from the start he
has to put up with numerous jokes about his advanced age from his colleagues. Yet, soon they respect him and he even slowly cements a friendship with
high jump star Yoo Ji-won (Ko Ah-ra). As a pacemaker it is Man-ho's task to set the right pacing for the star of the team. At the Olympic Games in London Yoon-gi
is supposed to win the gold medal, after all. But Man-ho starts to ask himself when he finally doesn't have to run for someone else, but be the star
Review: A good sports movie doesn't necessarily need to revolve around a sport that you are interested in.
"Forever the Moment" is just one example coming to mind. Next to the mandatory underdog story such a movie is also in
need of strong characters that can serve as a fundament for the rest of the picture. And even though "Pacemaker" doesn't really make anything wrong it just
lacks those very neatly crafted personalities mentioned. Apart from that there are also a few overdramatic scenes that will induce eyerolling, leaving no doubt
that this is a Korean movie. The overly dramatic moments forced upon us is merely one of the not that few weak points, because often enough you are wondering
whether the screenplay still knows where it's going.
All of this may sound worse than it actually is. Because large parts of "Pacemaker" manage to convince as a genre work. Still, when the film is required to
get more in-depth in order to captivate the viewer the drama trips. This even starts with Man-ho, who may have a few distinctive features, but we often
are desperately looking for the motivation of his actions. Kim Myeong-min ("Man of Vendetta",
"Beethoven Virus") delivers quite a different performance than what we are used to see from him and especially
the energy he oozes out when running can be contagious. Furthermore, he just has the right physique for a marathon runner. Unfortunately, he doesn't manage
to tease out the necessary something out of his character.
Then there is also Ji-won, played by Ko Ah-ra ("Papa"), who somehow is supposed to bring a romantic subplot with considerably
older Man-ho into the film, but fortunately this love story is only hinted at and may in fact just stay a friendship. Next to all the drama a true romantic
story really would have been way too much to bear. On the other hand this will make you wonder what role she is actually supposed to serve in the film.
She probably is supposed to underline that you should chase your dreams and not what gets you the most money. Such vagueness and sketchily drawn personas
are also the reason why even Ahn Seong-gi ("Unbowed", "Fair Love") looks rather ungainly in the flick,
certainly not stealing the spotlight like he normally does.
The movie also doesn't refrain from featuring stereotypes, which is easily visible in the depiction of a black guy who is part of the marathon team. But even worse is the way the melodrama is conveyed. Although it might not seem that way at first, and during the middle part as well as at the end we actually find out that marathon running requires quite a lot of planning and strategy in order to pace oneself and reach the finish line, "Pacemaker" is in fact one giant melodrama which revolves around the relationship between two brothers. And those moments when all attention is shifted to this relationship simply don't work as they are too manipulative. No matter if it's the flashbacks into childhood days or the moment when the older brother asserts what pressure he was under his whole life.
"Pacemaker" is predictable at all times. But let's be honest: It's a bit difficult not to be predictable with a sports film. Is the hero supposed to just pass the finish line without any obstacles to overcome? That would be quite dull and so there are a few health problems that over and over again threaten to crush Man-ho's dream. But the actually interesting part of the film is neglected in the end. Which is that Man-ho is a teamplayer and could find fulfillment in helping someone else to win. Still, with all the criticism thrown at "Pacemaker" it shouldn't be withhold that the movie also possesses some of the humanity which distinguished some really good dramas of the days of old. But all of this is ruined by exaggerated melodrama. A movie that is entertaining and every now and then even manages to touch you, but which at least in equal measures turns out to be cliché-ridden.