Man of Vendetta

Title: Man of Vendetta
Original Title: The Destroyed Man
Rating: 3/5
Genre: Thriller
Starring: Myung-min Kim, Ki-joon Uhm
Director: Min-ho Woo
Language: Korean

Terracotta East Asian Film Festival: #6

A staple diet for Korea with a plethora of thrillers emerging each year, but often failing to find that elusive element to make the stand out from the crowd. They've managed to get the details down to perfection, but as a result too often does it all come across as predictable, having seen a film bearing too much resemblance already. Such is the case here; comparisons to the well known film 'The Chaser' seem as apt as any other, particularly in the manner the game of cat and mouse is played out between the victim and the man who always seems to be just one step ahead of him, with both making use of every ounce of cunning they can muster so as to outfox the other and bring themselves one step closer to their eventual goal.

When a pastor, Young-Soo's, daughter is captured and a ransom demanded, Young-Soo makes every attempt to give in to Byeong-Chu, the kidnappers demands, but problems emerge when he is followed by a police detective and both Byeong-Chu and his daughter disappear without a trace. Eight years on and the hunt for her still goes on; the detective constantly harassed by the mother, the only one of the two still with hope as Young-Soo denounces his faith and now lives in bitter despair until the day he receives a phone call from the kidnapper. Suddenly his energy is renewed and he struggles once more to amass the ransom amount, hunting down his prey constantly one step ahead of him, his rage and lust for revenge building as he destroys his own life in his unrelenting quest to rescue his daughter.

I should point out that there's little here that feels like it was done particularly poorly; the music and direction doesn't feel at fault, rather it all falls down when we realise that there's nothing particularly original being offered. There are 'twists' as the plot develops but the majority of the time you know what's coming a fair time before it occurs, the worst occasion resulting in a tedious 15 minutes where he exhausts all options before falling back on the inevitable. The only glimmer of genuine unpredictability comes from our kidnapper, Choi (Ki-Joon), who manages to tread that odd line between seeming almost devout in being a good person before betraying that notion with a malicious and sadistic enjoyment that ultimately goes into creating a character that is inherently difficult to predict.

There are enough monumental events that occur that easily could have spent more time detailing the characters and how they react to the given situation; we spend plenty of time with our reformed pastor, learning how his life has changed but the character never truly comes to life, and not in the least is the child herself, given a painfully absent part despite being a pivotal piece to the puzzle. Eight years is a long period of time, and more to the point spans the majority of her life. The element of 'Stockholm Syndrome' that at one point is hinted at is never given any time to develop; her captor is certainly not a man someone would choose to be dependant on but is nonetheless the only guardian she is likely to have ever known. Her abused life in confinement, segregated from all others feels ripe for exploration; the snippets of her relationship with her captor providing highlights in the end result but swept aside for the tired tale told too may times before. If you've already made your way through “The Chaser” and “Oldboy” and are still hungry for more then this is a suitable follow-up, but otherwise there are better places to start.


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