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The Advocate: A Missing Body - Movie Poster
Original Title:
Seongnan Byeonhosa

South Korea 2015

Genre:
Thriller, Crime

Director:
Heo Jong-ho

Cast:
Lee Seon-gyoon
Kim Go-eun
Im Won-hee
Jang Hyeon-seong
Choi Jae-woong
Hong Seong-deok
Kim Yoon-hye
Kwak In-joon


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The Advocate: A Missing Body

The Advocate: A Missing Body - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Byeon Ho-seong (Lee Seon-gyoon) is an exceptionally smart lawyer who takes on another big case after his great achievements in defending a company which was put on trial because of a drug they sell. The new case is a homicide case, although the body hasn't been found yet. The alleged killer Kim Jeong-hwan (Choi Jae-woong) asserts his innocence. At the crime scene his claim seems to be supported by several odd circumstances. When Byeon then finds out that Kim is the chauffeur of Moon Ji-hoon (Jang Hyeon-seong), the man for whom he won his last case, pressure on Byeon is upped. Moreover, the prosecutor is no one else but talented Jin Seon-min (Kim Go-eun) who once worked together with Byeon and because of their personal past is on bad terms with him. However, Byeon is used to winning and with this new case he seems to have the upper hand as well. That is until Kim suddenly confesses in front of the judge to having committed the murder. For Byeon this confession doesn't make any sense. During his continueing investigation he eventually uncovers a conspiracy...

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Review: The English title with the respective subtitle makes you realize pretty soon that this courtroom-drama-meets-detective-comedy isn't a big budget production. Instead, you get the impression to watch a pilot to a tv show. The opening credits underline this impression even more. The rest of the movie entertains in a pleasant manner, yet never manages to elavate itself above mediocrity. This probably is also because the director doesn't take any risks. The story follows a well-tested formula so that every twist can be anticipated in advance, and the directing is just decent, too. With all the connotations that go hand in hand with the word "decent"... This means that "The Advocate" can't step out of the shadows of numerous similar movies and will very soon be merely a faint memory in the viewer's head.

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The genre-mix director Heo Jong-ho ("Countdown") delivers is also handled in an unfortunate fashion. For most part of the first half this is a courtroom drama a detective story follows eventually. And we get a thriller which is garnished with countless twists. Furthermore, there is also some humor interspersed in regular intervals. The problem with this isn't even that these different focal points make the film feel torn apart. In fact, everything fits together fine in a way. It's more that we constantly get the impression as if director Heo made use of elements of successful original works and by doing so wants to play it safe. A little bit of "Chronicles of Evil" here and a bit of "Unbowed" there, rounded off by a conspiracy as in "Tabloid Truth". And keep in mind that even those movies have already been inspired by others...

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Accordingly, it should have become pretty clear that viewers who are already following Korean cinema for a few years will barely get anything new. But isn't that the general issue with Korean productions these days? There are simply too many copies and rehashed stories. Which in fact only lets us hope for at least some interesting characters and a good chemistry between them. But even in this respect there is nothing outstanding in "The Advocate". Lee Seon-gyoon ("A Hard Day", "Helpless") is clearly giving his all to deliver some kind of arrogant Sherlock Holmes, but his sidekick, played by Im Won-hee ("Le Grand Chef") is conspicuously neglected leading to the problem that there is no special rhythm between the detective and his colleague. Moreover, the protagonist just lacks a distinctive personality.

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A big question mark pops up when Kim Go-eun ("Coin Locker Girl", "A Muse") enters the screen. She doesn't serve any real purpose and her romantic past with Byeon, which is hinted at, is merely laughable. There isn't even a single interesting scene between the two. The villain also lacks color. At least the pacing is high and the investigation is always going somewhere. Sadly, even the twists are completely obvious, though. We may be speculating a bit what fuels a guy like Byeon Ho-seong, but we still can't believe the things we apparently see him do, making us wait for the resolution at the end, which in flashbacks tells us frame by frame what we already came up with as an explanation ourselves.

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Reading this you might be led to believe that "The Adovate" is a boring affair. But that's not the case. For this the story is told and presented too solidly. However, the lack of originality will often make you believe to be watching a tv production. The flick would have benefited enormously from more fleshed out characters. And not every role seems to be cast ideally. If you are looking for entertainment you won't be let down, but you can't expect to copy other works or rather use certain set pieces/ideas and assemble them anew and at the same time impress the audience. The lighthearted tone towards the end proves once again that "The Advocate" doesn't aim at achieving much. Korean cinema should show some more eagerness to experiment in the future again.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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