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South Korea 2011


Sohn Young-sung

Ha Jeong-woo
Park Hee-soon
Jang Hyeok
Seong Dong-il
Kim Seong-ryeong
Jeong Won-joong

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The Client

Story: Han Cheol-min (Jang Hyuk) comes home one night and is arrested by the police. The marriage bed is full of his wife's blood who is nowhere to be found and Cheol-min is the main suspect. He claims that he lost his way when driving home and was involved in a small accident, but his alibi shows some inaccurateness. On the other hand the police hasn't found any body and so prosecutor Ahn Min-ho (Park Hee-soon) has to convince the judge of Cheol-min's guilt by circumstancial evidence alone. Kang Seong-hee (Ha Jeong-woo) becomes the defense lawyer and is constantly confronted with new evidence which suggest that Min-ho and the police have their very own reasons to wrap up the case as soon as possible. There seems to be some connection to the murder of a schoolgirl some time ago and so Seong-hee and his team need to find the true motives for the secrecy of the police. Maybe there is even a conspiracy against Cheol-min.

Review: "The Client" is not an especially innovative thriller, in fact the resolution of the murder case is one of the biggest downsides of the movie, but the investigation of the case is presented in an incredibly thrilling way since the screenplay doesn't leave the viewer any time to take a breather. Without ever putting on the brakes we get new information and developments that shed more and more light on the case and raise more questions. Thus, the audience never feels put to sleep as it may be the case with other courtroom dramas. Instead at any point in the movie we feel rewarded by several new developments in the case. In the end, the very well written script can't really meet the expectations it built up throughout the film, though. However, this certainly doesn't take anything from the thrill-factor of this movie.

Another upside of this film are its actors. The story doesn't take its time to illuminate the several characters and their lives in some more detail but the protagonists certainly undergo a change in the course of the investigation. Ha Jung-woo ("The Yellow Sea", "My Dear Enemy") portrays a really likeable lawyer whose character comes along with some nice pecularities and who has almost a family-like relationship with his team. The supporting characters are also cast pretty well and during the short amount of time they have on the screen they give their roles enough colors to make us get interested in them. Park Hee-soon ("The Scam", "My Friend and his Wife") plays the prosecutor who always has something inscrutable about him. Is he one of the good guys or is he part of a conspiracy?

The third guy in the league is Jang Hyeok ("Tazza", "Windstruck"), who may be victim or culprit. You can never really make out anything of him and at times even his own lawyer thinks that he is guilty. Most of the time he remains in the background and the movie focuses on the investigation of the lawyer. With every new piece of information that comes to light the viewer feels further entangled in the events and "The Client" certainly is generous with its revelations. You get them by the minute and every time we fear the scriptwriters couldn't have come up with anything new there is still something turning up that forces us to see the case in a new light. This dynamic and tension, which is created solely by the gathering of information and the hunt for it, is something you seldomly get from a thriller.

Apart from that "The Client" is also a courtroom drama which in general can be pretty tiresome with their endless interrogations. But not here. In comparison to similar movies this one also spends less time in a courtroom. Nonetheless, the story evolves mainly through the dialogues and that's also where director Sohn Young-sung ("The Pit and the Pendulum") shows that he has the rare talent to make his dialogues very thrilling. Of course the actors are also responsible for that. Still, the investigation of the case oftentimes takes us out of the courtroom and creates an atmosphere full of tension along with the good soundtrack which is why we always wonder who the good and who the bad guy is in this case.

Unfortunately, "The Client" becomes rather disappointing towards the end. The fantastic script has built up pretty high expectation up to this point which the ending simply falls short of it. It can't be denied that it would have been possible to come up with a better twist than what we get here. When the case seems to be closed there are some new facts revealed but they aren't nearly as captivating or convincing like what we got to see in the movie before. For a short moment "The Client" becomes just a solid thriller because of the last ten minutes, but considering the enormous entertainment value of the remaining 110 minutes this still is a very well done thriller no fan of the genre can do anything wrong with.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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