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The Distributors - Movie Poster
Original Title:

South Korea 2022

Crime, Thriller

Hong Seok-goo

Park Sung-hoon
Song Jin-woo
Kim So-eun
Park Joo-hee
Lim Na-young
Ji Min-hyuk
Lee Hyun-so
Kim Bo-young

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The Distributors

The Distributors - Film Screenshot 1

Story: Do Yoo-bin (Park Sung-hoon) is a schoolteacher and is soon going to marry Im Seon-ae (Kim So-eun), the daughter of a wealthy pro-Japanese businessman. The father is anything but happy about it, but Seon-ae is sure that Yoo-bin is the right one for her. When she makes a short trip to Italy, Sang-beom (Song Jin-woo) takes his friend Yoo-bin to a club. There, the teacher is drugged by two girls and taken home. The girls make a video of him lying naked on the couch while they are also in the room. When Yoo-bin wakes up the next day, he can't remember anything. Shortly afterwards, however, he receives the video and gets a phone call in which he is blackmailed. Yoo-bin asks his friend Sang-beom for help, but after handing over the money, the blackmailer is not planning on keeping his promise. Yoo-bin goes to the police and reports the blackmailing but lies about the exact circumstances. In the meantime, the teacher is also having problems at school. Two of his students, including his future wife's brother, took photos of someone without that person's consent. Yoo-bin punished the two and swept the matter under the carpet because involving official authorities would have ruined their future. Nevertheless, it appears that this leads to completely different problems...

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Review: "The Distributors" takes an interesting approach as the story doesn't push the typical dramatic aspects to extremes, but rather wants to be a thriller in which you have to unravel the identity of the person blackmailing Yoo-bin. The fact that the movie is supposed to tell a gripping crime story is also made clear by repeatedly mentioning Hitchcock. Which happens so often, that it actually starts to get on your nerves, especially since "The Distributors" isn't as gripping as it would like to be, and on top of that, it doesn't even come close to featuring a clever script. Instead, you get a lot of plot holes and a story in which too many coincidences come into play. Furthermore, you are not able to develop sympathy for anyone either, since even the protagonist doesn't act humanly or at least rationally.

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Park Sung-hoon ("Gonjiam") plays a teacher who has nothing in common with his future wife, so you have to get the impression that he is only marrying her for her money. The fact that two women knock him out with drugs is only the logical consequence. His moral compass seems to be broken, which is why he just had to become a victim himself at some point. For example, he is still friends with Sang-beom, although that guy obviously uploads videos from his clients' laptops on the internet, and that includes the teacher's laptop too. The real victim, Yoo-bin's former girlfriend Ga-young, is of course at the top of the list of possible blackmailers, and so we find out via a flashback how the teacher dealt with the situation at the time - not that empathetic. Even though, the protagonist isn't portrayed as a monster, he does have problems with taking responsibility.

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The teacher may not necessarily solve the situation around the two students who secretly took pictures of a woman on the street (of a relatively harmless nature, but apparently illegal enough in order to ruin their future) in an ideal way, but an extremely self-righteous colleague on the other hand, wants the whole thing to be handled in an orderly fashion, and with that she even drives a student into a suicide attempt. A fascinating moral gray area, which will lead to the colleague blaming herself? No, somehow, we are told later on that, in spite of everything, the colleague did the right thing. Why exactly, isn't made clear, though. All in all, this thriller is constructed in a manner that too many things are told rather than shown. The protagonist is clearly supposed to have a dark side which he is not really aware of, but in order to make sure that the audience gets it, it is made clear at the end in a very exaggerated way.

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As mentioned before, though, if you are looking for a moral dilemma, you will be looking in vain here. Instead, we have to let an uninteresting "hero" guide us through the movie. Since the story around the blackmailing alone doesn't offer enough material, the movie does not only involve the police, who of course are not supposed to find out about Yoo-bin's skeletons in his closet, but it also adds a bit of school drama. Since director Hong Seok-goo considers the master of his craft Hitchcock as his source of inspiration - we didn't forget because it is constantly mentioned -, everything is intertwined, but you shouldn't expect any subtlety here. Instead, the individual developments take us by surprise in a rather clumsy way. The fact that there are actually some twists and turns is the only reason why you stay tuned and don't just turn the movie off being utterly bored.

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You can't help but get the impression that there has to be a surprisingly complex view on crime and punishment hidden somewhere within the story. Unfortunately, the screenwriter didn't manage to capture it adequately and the director was too busy putting the focus on the revelations. The ending (tiny spoiler alert) holds up a mirror to Yoo-bin, but since the character is written too flat, there is no light-bulb moment for the viewer and no real revelation or even catharsis for Yoo-bin. With that, it is not really clear what the movie wants to achieve. As a thriller, "The Distributors" offers too little clues to actually make the viewer guess, and the developments are not clever either. While there are a few surprises that grant the flick a point or two, it doesn't justify investing 100 minutes watching it. It's better to steer clear of this thriller.

(Author: Manfred Selzer)
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