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South Korea 2015

Thriller, Crime

Son Yong-ho

Kim Sang-kyeong
Park Seong-woong
Kim Seong-gyoon
Jo Jae-yoon
Kim Ee-seong
Ki Joo-bong
Yoon Seung-ah
Oh Dae-hwan

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The Deal

The Deal - Film Screenshot 1

Story: The police are under enormous pressure as they aren't capable of arresting a serial killer who has already murdered nine girls. Tae-soo (Kim Sang-kyeong) is one of the detectives working on the case. But since there are no new clues he is looking for a van whose drivers was involved in an accident and fled the scene. Something is off about the case, but Tae-soo soon finds the driver, Kang-cheon (Park Seong-woong). It turns out that he is actually the wanted murderer! Just right after the accident he killed another girl and there is even blood and hair found in the van. Shortly afterwards Tae-soo's brother-in-law Seung-hyeon (Kim Seong-gyoon) calls and is worried about his wife still not having come home. Tae-soo's suspicion is confirmed: The blood and the cell phone found near Kang-cheon's van belong to his sister. However, the killer still remains silent about where his victims' bodies are buried. Only three of them can be found on his property. That's enough for a death penalty, but the body of Tae-soo's sister is still missing. Moreover, the detective and his brother-in-law can't cope with the fact that the death penalty actually hasn't been executed in Korea for 17 years...

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The Deal - Film Screenshot 4

Review: It has become difficult keeping track of all the consistently solid thrillers coming out of Korea, which on the other hand will be forgotten after only a few days as well. "The Deal" has the questionable honor of being on this list of films. To put it in a nutshell, the movie will likely satisfy genre fans, doesn't struggle with any serious problems and also manages to be convincing when it comes to the aesthetics of the pictures. Then again, there are many deja-vu moments that make "The Deal" become boring at times. Storywise this thriller simply doesn't come up with anything new and accordingly can't even reach the level of some of the better modern Korean thrillers like for example "Chronicles of Evil" let alone modern classic "Memories of Murder", which this flick constantly tries to remind you of.

The Deal - Film Screenshot 5

Parellels to aforementioned classic are partly obvious because of actor Kim Sang-kyeong who also played a leading role in the thriller several years back. But contrary to his performance back then Kim, who in recent years could be seen in "Montage" as well, isn't always that convincing in "The Deal". That's because right from the start he has to emotionally cope with quite a lot of stuff and later on sheds numerous tears on different occasions, too. He is surely giving a neat performance, yet he constantly passes the border of what has to be considered overacting, making his detective rather caricatural. But that seems to be a general problem with the screenplay since it isn't any different when it comes to the villain. Park Seong-woong ("Office", "Tabloid Truth") makes his physical presence work in his favor and he is an intimidating guy. Yet, at some point his creepy smile becomes caricatural as well.

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Still, Park manages to leave the most lasting impression and stands as the film's highlight. Especially one scene in which he is attacked by a fellow prisoner in a common shower area scores with an extremely tense atmosphere and high suspense thanks to him. Unfortunately, apart from this very scene there aren't any seriously breathtaking action scenes to be found. There are chases on foot and by car, and that's just where it becomes apparent that "The Deal" does simply the same stuff as almost any other thriller. Nothing is really standing out. A well told thriller doesn't need any good action scenes, though. The story alone and the way it is presented are enough to make the viewer sit on the edge of his seat. Sadly, the movie doesn't succeed in knocking up a consistent tone. In the beginning we get your typical detective flick which seems to be heading into the direction of a revenge drama. But in the second half the movie loses orientation.

The Deal - Film Screenshot 7

It seems as if director Son Yong-ho was aiming at finding his own path with his debut work towards the end, but didn't succeed. The investigation in the murder case of a gangster boss is soon linked to the actual plot, but the direction which the movie is then heading to isn't trip-proof and at times is even slightly frustrating. With a mere running time of 102 minutes there are also a few empty spaces in the middle part during which almost nothing is happening. And this even though this space could have been used to illuminate the characters. Particularly concerning Seung-hyeon, who is embodied by Kim Seong-gyoon ("Hway: A Monster Boy", "Nameless Gangster"), this screen time could have been used profitably, as Seung-hyeon appears to have been planned as a complex individual, yet never comes across as such.

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The screenplay turns out to be a big weakness in general. Actually, everything that is shown here we have already seen in similiar flicks. And for a thriller to not have any surprises in store is almost a no-go. In the end, "The Deal" stays on familiar terrain. Accordingly, it doesn't impress nor is it really bad. The pictures also resemble that of similar flicks, adding a lot of outdoor shots in the rain to the mix while the sets are either quite gritty or could be taken out of any old cop movie. All of that prevents the demanding viewer, who actually wants a bit more than that, from sympathizing with the mediocre written individuals in the movie, leaving us cold when it comes to the emotional moments. Thus, "The Deal" is a thriller which you don't have to watch, but which nonetheless will appease the hunger of genre-fans.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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