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South Korea 2007


Choi Yang-il (Yoichi Sai)

Ji Jin-hee
Kang Seong-yeon
Lee Beom-su
Oh Man-seok
Lee Gi-yeong
Mun Seong-kun
Jo Kyeong-hwan

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aka The Art of Revenge

Story: Tae-soo (Ji Jin-hee) is an assassin, who is looking for his long lost twin brother Tae-jin. When he finally finds him Tae-jin gets murdered right in front of Tae-soo by a sniper. Tae-soo is devasted and takes the body with him to his home. Eventually, he finds out that his brother was a police officer who was just transfered to murder squad. Since no one knows about Tae-jin's death Tae-soo simply takes on his brother's identity in order to hunt down the assassin and the man who hired him with the resources of the police force. However, one of his colleagues, Gang Mi-na (Kang Seong-yeon), proves to be Tae-jin's girlfriend, which is why he is soon exposed. Luckily, Tae-soo can convince Mi-na to keep this secret to herself for now. One of the police officers who work on the case of the killer Tae-soo, soon gets closer and closer on his heels, though. At least, Tae-soo finally gets a lead concerning the murder on his brother when the sniper suddenly turns up at the police station and wonders why his victim apparently is still alive...

Review: "Soo" is a frustrating revenge thriller that gets lost in an undeveloped script, painfully superficial characters and a lot of blood. Latter may qualify as one of the movie's upsides as the action scenes really don't need to hide behind those of better movies and also manage to get the viewer's adrenaline level up. Every time the movie takes some more time for the characters, though, there is the serious problem of not falling asleep as there isn't really much happening at all. Not a single one of the characters can win over the viewer's sympathies which first and foremost is because of the fact that they are incredibly odd in nature. Sometimes they act as if they wanted to make fun of themselves, but sadly "Soo" is very serious about everything. Thus, the film remains a half baked and alienating product only action fans should take a closer look on.

The movie's premise isn't that bad, actually, even though it may not be the first time this idea has been put on celluloid. A man witnesses his twin brother getting killed and takes on his identity in order to catch the murderer. You could have made an interesting revenge thriller out of this, but everything we get instead is a lengthy chase after the ones responsible without any sense for the right mood. The movie's narrative is also a bit strange since Tae-soo's "investigation" is everything but comprehensible, leading him to stumble from one scene to the next as if these were several episodes of a TV series. In general, the conclusions the protagonists draw are incredibly far-fetched and without rhyme or reason. Just to name one example: One of the police officers believes "Tae-jin" to be the killer Soo. But on what score?! He has a hunch... Still, even a hunch has to have a certain stimulus, something the script writer obviously missed.

Some scenes also look pretty improvised and so we watch Tae-soo and Mi-na argue in several dialogues that apparently were written right on the spot, or they just stare at each other in a confusingly disorientated fashion. All of this is happening in front of incredibly dull and greyish sets, so that we soon are dragged into an uncomfortable mood of loneliness or fatigue if you like to choose latter. But it gets worse. When the protagonist, without saying a single word, wanders through some alleyways and fish markets for ten minutes, then this is almost hypnotizing. When you regain conscience, you most likely will ask yourself what the hell you are just wasting your time with. But every time the viewer is about to hit the "stop"-button another action scene kicks in. That's the only thing that can keep the pot boiling.

Therefore, the pacing of "Soo" is extremely wavering. When it gets more high-paced the film can actually be entertaining. The chasing scenes and especially the brawls deliver the necessary thrill, which is even the more surprising as we don't care about the individual characters' fate in fact. The technical realization can score, though, because even if some of the brawls are seemingly improvised, there is nonetheless a well-made choreography behind it, which is not aiming at letting the opponents fight their way through their enemies in an exceptionally asthetic fashion, but instead makes the excesses of violence actually look like a fight for mere survival. That's working out pretty well and so it's more than anything else the finale that can console for the tedious rest of the movie. Especially the level of blood and violence grows drastically, which leads to some really harsh scenes, which surely don't need to hide behind some of the bloodiest movies of this kind.

Concerning certain peoples' toughness "Soo" gets more unrealistic towards the end considerably, even though it was already to begin with. But this isn't nearly as annoying as the stupidly inserted dialogues or scripts writers' sudden bursts of innovative ideas when they try to give the characters some more facets, which in the end simply don't match what we know of them already. Mi-na is suddenly drawn towards Tae-soo in the most inappropriate moments, Tae-soo on the other hand seems to be a blank paper with the one word "revenge" written on it. Thus, Ji Jin-hee ("The Old Garden", "Perhaps Love") can't show us any of his acting skills, here.
Japanese-born director Choi Yang-il (or for that matter Yoichi Sai) has already delivered a by far more interesting and comprehensible film with his work "Blood and Bones". "Soo" is simply confusing, frustrating and lengthy. Only action fans should take a closer look, thanks to some good action scenes.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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