Korean actor Jang Dong-Gun truly makes his mark in the action genre with this tale of redemption and revenge in which he unleashes one of his best performances.
Gon is a Korean-born man who was abandoned by his mother and is raised by Dai Ban, a Triad leader. He has become one of Dai Ban’s top assassins who is known for carrying out his missions flawlessly. That is, until one night, he makes a mistake that is destined to change his life forever. Accidentally killing a young girl in his latest mission, Gon is forced to carry out one last mission before Dai Ban offers to let him go.
The mission takes Gon back to a place he has not seen in many years: Korea. However, he learns that the target is Choi Mogyeong, who happens to be the mother of the little girl Gon had killed. Mogyeong is a risk manager at an investment firm who unknowingly has evidence against her very own boss, John Lee. Like Gon, Mogyeong is in a downward spiral, taking care of her sick mother while indulging in pills and alcohol to ease her pain. Gon ultimately decides not to kill her, unleashing all fury from both John and Dai Ban, who are revealed to be in cahoots. Dai Ban decides to send his top three enforcers, Juan, Alvaro, and Chaoz to Korea to deal with Gon. Meanwhile, Gon finds himself on a road to redemption to protect Mogyeong but will ultimately have to tell her the truth about her daughter’s death.
Jang Dong-Gun is truly one of Korea’s best known faces and while the film did modestly at the box office, this showcases one of the actor’s best action and dramatic performances to date. As Gon, Jang brings a sense of three personalities: the hard-boiled, take no prisoners assassin; the sorrowful man who feels as if he has nothing in the world and since being a kid, shows that emotion through crying; and finally, a man who seeks redemption to make the wrong things right no matter what it takes and no matter what it can cost.
As for Kim Min-Hee’s Choi Mogyeong, she has a striking similarity to Gon as she feels sorrow through the deaths of her both her husband and daughter. Ironically, Gon is the one who set the wheels in motion for Mogyeong, who despite her top position, indulges in pills stolen from a pharmacist friend and alcohol to ease her pain. While she unknowingly has the evidence against her boss, she soon realizes that she is a wanted target and ultimately must rely on the voice of the very man who caused her sorrow to stay alive.
The film definitely has international flavor, with dialogue in both Korean and English. Brian Tee, best known for his role as “DK” in The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift, looks menacing as lead enforcer Chaoz, who seems to have a soft spot for Gon because of their sworn brotherhood. Out of the trio of enforcers, he seems to have the most respect and loyalty towards Gon as evident in some key scenes. Meanwhile, fellow enforcers Alexander Wraith and Anthony Dilio don’t really care about Gon and would rather make his life hell while Kim Jung-Seong’s John goes from slick businessman with a care to menacing psychopath in a matter of minutes. However, it is his right hand man Byun, played by Kim Hee-Won, goes from loyal sidekick to one insane menace when he realizes he could do much better than where he is now and sets some wheels in motion.
The action scenes are a thrill-a-minute. While most of the film consists of guns blazing and explosion, there are some close quarter combat scenes that don’t rely on the dreaded “shaky-cam” effect. In one stunning piece of a major action sequence, Jang pumps bullets into a
goon and when the goon proceeds to reload his weapon, Jang runs full speed at the goon and delivers a flying knee strike that would make Tony Jaa and Iko Uwais proud. The finale itself is quite nicely done with one of the most “predictable yet shocking at the same time” moments of the film.
While it is not as prolific as The Man from Nowhere, writer-director Lee Jeong-Beom truly crafted a very intricate thriller that is driven by an exciting performance by Jang Dong-Gun. Brian Tee actually helps drive the film as well. Definitely worth a rental with a strong option to buy.
WFG RATING: A-
CJ Entertainment presents a Dice Film in association with Musa Productions. Director: Lee Jeong-Beom. Producer: Kim Sung-Woo. Writer: Lee Jeong-Beom. Cinematography: Lee Mo-Gae. Editing: Nam Na-Young
Cast: Jang Dong-Gun, Kim Min-Hee, Brian Tee, Kim Hee-Won, Kim Jung-Seong, Dana Lee, Kim Min-Jae, Lee Young-Ran, Anthony Dilio, Alexander Wraith, Rich Ting, Angela Bullock, Kang Ji-Woo