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[Herald Review] ‘V.I.P’ shows an intensely pessimistic, trite world

Director Park Hoon-jung rose to acclaim in Korea for depicting the dark, jaded world of men in his 2013 crime flick “New World.”

The film’s production company, called Sanai Pictures (“sanai” literally meaning “men” in Korean) has gone on to produce a number of movies tracing the lives of angst-ridden men in the Korean justice system and criminal underworld. One such film is director Kim Sung-soo’s “The City Of Madness,” a bloodstained feature about a corrupt cop, a corrupt mayor, and a corrupt prosecutor.

In “V.I.P,” director Park stays unfailingly true to his worldview. The screen is once again dominated by men who struggle against Korea’s system, raining down catastrophe on their lives due to its sheer inefficiency.

Jang Dong-gun stars in “V.I.P.” (Warner Bros. Korea)
Jang Dong-gun stars in “V.I.P.” (Warner Bros. Korea)
In the film, which hits local theaters on Aug. 24, Jang Dong-gun stars as a Korean government agent tasked with overseeing North Korean criminal Kim Kwang-il, played by Lee Jong-seok.

In a turn from his pretty-boy image, actor Lee portrays the psychopathic serial killer Kim, elegant, pearly-skinned in appearance and the much-guarded family member of a high-ranking North Korean official. Despite his unsavory hobby, Kim knows the secrets of North Korea’s overseas accounts in China, which makes him a VIP hostage that cannot be killed off.

Kim Myung-min stars as tired but headstrong police investigator Chae I-do, who seeks to capture Kim and bring him to justice. But faced with the solid wall of both Korean inter-bureau power plays and an international diplomatic struggle, Kim seems destined for failure. In the end, as with most of Parks’ characters, it is unclear whether Kim is seeking justice or personal gratification.

“I wanted to see how our society’s malfunctioning system would react when a monster was introduced into it,” Park said after a press screening of the film in Seoul on Wednesday.

Caught up in its own frustrating bureaucracy, the exhausting display of violence and aimless, trite characters, the film is hit-and-miss. It is pessimistic in the extreme, but fails to yield an interesting noir.

By Rumy Doo(