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The Childe - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2023

Action, Thriller

Park Hoon-jung

Kim Seon-ho
Kang Tae-ju
Kim Kang-woo
Ong Seong-wu
Go Ara
Kwon Hyuk-hyun
Heo Joon-seok
Jeong Ra-el

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The Childe

The Childe - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Marco (Kang Tae-ju) lives in the Philippines and makes his way through life as a boxer. He is half Korean, but he has never met his father. When his mother becomes seriously ill and she needs an operation to save her life, he tries to track down his father. He soon finds out that he is a rich man, and he actually wants to see him as soon as possible. He is even visited by his father's lawyers, who take care of getting him a passport and other things, so that he is soon sitting on a plane to Korea. There he is approached by an elegantly dressed stranger (Kim Seon-ho), who makes it clear to him that his trip to Korea does not serve the purpose he thinks it does. When he arrives in Korea, Marco's half-brother Han (Kim Kang-woo) wants to meet the young man as soon as possible, as their father is dying. However, the car is stopped by the well-dressed man from the plane and all the occupants are killed except for Marco. The assassin seems to act on behalf of someone else and wants 10 million dollars as a ransom for Marco. Marco manages to escape, though, and so a wild hunt for the young man starts to unfold. He will soon find out the real reason why he was brought to Korea and it will change everything for him...

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The Childe - Film Screenshot 4

Review: Park Hoon-jung is definitely one of Korea's more interesting filmmakers. His movies always have a special touch, and even though that includes sometimes moving into B-movie territory, they always have the guts to also be a little innovative. At least on a smaller scale. "The Childe" mainly looks like a mixture of Park's previous movie "The Witch 2: The Other One", minus the supernatural aspect, and "Night in Paradise". The director clearly knows when his story is treading water - it doesn't have much to offer in that respect anyway - and then decides to score points with some good action. But the real extraordinary thing about the movie is the protagonist. At first you think that Marco will lead us through the story, but soon the nameless killer becomes the focus, which actually makes the movie more interesting because he is initially perceived as the villain.

The Childe - Film Screenshot 5

For a long time there are several things that remain a mystery, such as whether the well-dressed killer is really the antagonist, who his clients are, or what goal he is pursuing. Since the story always moves between those points of tension, the events remain fascinating throughout the entire movie. The killer is quite ruthless, but for now, he apparently needs Marco alive. So, there are always chases of different kinds, in which we root for Marco, but at the same time we realize that the killer is vastly superior to him and that the pursued one often only manages to escape because the well-dressed assassin's top priority is to always look elegant and cool at work. It also doesn't hurt that he's not the only opponent. Kim Kang-woo ("Recalled") plays the half-brother about whom we soon realize that he doesn't necessarily have Marco's well-being in mind. Then there is also a woman who also seems to act on behalf of someone else.

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At first, it is hard to find out who is good and who is bad. This could normally get somewhat frustrating, but since Marco is undoubtedly the person whose life is actually at stake, he remains a good point of reference for us. A more cunning hero could possibly have played off all the other parties against each other. Marco, however, presents himself like being more of a puppet of powerful people, and so, as a character, he unfortunately starts to disappear into the background. Now you might have assumed that his biography as an amateur boxer would guarantee him some good action scenes, but that's not the case. Instead, he turns into a damsel in distress and the killer becomes more and more the focus. As mentioned before, this is an interesting choice, exactly because we hardly have sympathy for him. The flick manages to score points with its sometimes ironic tone, though, which comes out here and there and gives the characters and developments a special touch.

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For the powerful and their hired killers, everything seems to be a game, and Marco is the rat being raced through the maze. Since the movie is entirely populated by ruthless and cruel people, Kim Seon-ho deserves special praise as the killer. His insane grin, his equally insane look when he joyfully chases after his victim as well as his civilized behavior make him the most fascinating character in the flick, and so you are more than willing to grant him the screen-time he gets. He also doesn't have scenes that are merely designed to show off how merciless he is. Which is something you can't necessarily say about other characters in the movie. Sometimes these scenes drag on so much that you have to ask yourself what added value they are supposed to have. After all, we are quickly able to classify Marco's brother, for example, as a hateful individual, even if we hadn't got a lengthy display of his inhumanity.

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Park Hoon-jung knows how to win us over with polished-looking scenes, which stand in stark contrast to the initially somewhat dirtier shots in the Philippines. Since, as usual, he is responsible for the script too, he also shows a good sense of pacing. The explanation of why Marco is being hunted won't blow you away, and especially the finale with its twist and the epilogue that turns out a bit too light-hearted seem quite underwhelming, but the action is spaced out nicely. Particularly during the finale, "The Childe" gets surprisingly brutal, even though the director was definitely more explicit in "The Witch". Unfortunately, the highlight of the action, a bloody showdown, loses some points because of the shaky camera work. Some obvious minus points of "The Childe" are also the script and a few scenes that seem a bit out of place and therefore, once again, underline the already mentioned B-movie charm, to put it nicely. Apart from that, the movie is a very entertaining action flick with an unexpectedly well-working anti-hero.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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