HTS Moderator , Reviewer
Title: The Suspect
HTS Overall Score:80
It used to be that Hong Kong cinema was the pinnacle of Asian action movies, but the Koreans are certainly making a good show of it. Park Chan Wook has been doing it for decades, and “Commitment” was a solid outing for them, but I REALLY ended up being surprised by and enjoying “The Suspect”. Hailed as an action movie, it really is much more of a “spy vs. spy” movie with some solid action thrown in - kind of the “Mission Impossible” of the Korean world. Done on a fraction of the budget of a blockbuster film, it combines great cinematography with some excellent fighting skills along with a very impressively layered storyline. It takes my vote for most fun popcorn movie from Well Go USA for the year.
Ji Dong-cheol (Yoo Gong) is a North Korean super spy who ended up defecting to South Korea. Now he’s acting as a driver for another high profile North Korean defector, only to end up the suspect in that defector’s death. Framed for a murder that he didn’t commit, he’s on the run from the South Korean government, spearheaded by an ex South Korean commander who has run into Ji Dong-cheol before. Now it’s spy vs. spy in a race to end. Ji Dong must unmask the true killer of his boss before the South Korean forces catch up to him, and he can only do this with the help of a reporter, Choi (Da-in Yoo), who’s a bit more than she seems.
The crux of the problem is, Ji Dong has another mission that he’s kept secret. Just before his boss was murdered, he was given the name and location of the hit man who assassinated his wife and child years ago. Now he’s got to find this killer and make him pay for what he’s done, all in the course of keeping his skin safe from commander who’s hunting him like a dog. As he digs deeper into the murder of his wife and child, he finds that the job of clearing his name from murder and this case are inextricably tied together, revealing a silent enemy controlling everything from the sidelines. Now it’s not just spy vs. spy, but spies vs. the shadows, as well.
I really can’t delve any further into the plot without giving away secrets that must unfold on screen, and this is what rose the film above your standard action spy movie - the layers get pulled back piece by piece, and you realize that there are multiple threads that must be followed to their inevitable conclusions, and that all is not what it seems to be. Minute by minute, you discover just who’s behind the whole charade, what their motivations are, and find out just how many of your friends are enemies and how many of your enemies end up being your friend. As I mentioned at the beginning, the film is kind of like the original “Mission Impossible” meets Kung-fu with a decidedly Korean culture flair. As the two spies find out more and more, they are forced to re-evaluate their ideals and their missions in order to get to the heart of true justice, both for themselves and for their country.
Some people have said that the 2 hour and 17 minute runtime is a bit bloated, but I disagree, as it was much needed to flesh out all of the existing subplots that ended up being heavily intertwined. Each plot is given its own life and its own importance to the story. Nothing was done just for adding in bulk, but acted as an individual petal in the entire flower that is the movie. Heavily layered and filled with a lot of intrigue, I have to regard it as one of the more FUN movies I’ve seen come out of Well Go USA in quite some time. The action was frenetic, the chases were solid, and the acting was excellent. My only real complaints had to do with the extended car chase with the van and some of the hand to hand combat scenes. The car chase was just a bit too long and showed its limited budget. With so many amazing car chases in film history, this one was just a bit too vanilla in comparison. Annoyingly enough, the new habit of doing hand to hand scenes with a billion quick cuts has stretched over in Asia as well as North America. The fight scenes were obviously well choreographed and the actors were solid martial artists, but they would cut and shift to different angles every half second to 2 seconds and it got irritating to watch obviously skilled men fight in such a blur of motion. They were still quite engaging, but lacked some of that gleeful excitement that comes from a lifetime of watching old martial arts movies where you could SEE what was going on. With that being said, these aren’t major problems as there are only a handful of martial arts scenes amidst a hail of “Chow Yun Fat” style gun carnage. The action is exceptionally done and quite frequent, while punctuated with a tense sense of urgency as the facts are slowly uncovered and revealed through the run of the movie.
Not Rated by the MPAA
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23306[/img]The 2.40:1 AVC encoded transfer is one that Well Go USA can be proud of. “The Suspect” has a long runtime, so it was given a BD-50 with plenty of room to breathe given the lack of extras on disc. There is no digital anomalies that I can detect, and also free from digital manipulation. The image is very film like and crystal clear as can be. The city shots show off the natural beauty of Seoul and with picture perfect contrast levels. The colors are rich and saturated nicely, with blues and yellows and shades of black being the most prominent. There’s a few desaturated scenes, but those are intentional, as they show the flashback sequences that fill in many of the story’s plot instances. Black levels are sickeningly good and showcase the many dark corridors and alleyways that Ji Dong has to navigate and fight his way through. No black crush, no washed out blacks, just lots and lots of incredible detail, even in the darkest scene. The detail isn’t just relegated to the dark as the outdoor shots are simply incredible, brimming with fine detail, from the fibers of the military uniforms to the blood and bruises covering the faces of Choi and Ji-Dong.
[img]http://www.hometheatershack.com/gallery/file.php?n=23314[/img]“The Suspect” is an aggressive film that pulls no punches in its hard hitting action scenes, and the Korean 5.1 DTS-HD MA track is just as aggressive. Right from the get go, we’re subjugated to some impressive LFE and a soundscape that fills all remaining 5 channels with energy. The surrounds are used extensively as bullets whiz from all directions and cars screech and crash into each other in the crowded Seoul streets. The light sounds such as a door closing or the crunch of glass underneath is incredibly accurate and detailed, giving a very realistic sense of ambiance and immersion into the film. The dialogue is great, never out of balance with the rest of the chaos happening around it, and the front sound-stage shows some great panning effects. LFE is pressing and powerful as it assaults the audience with the heavy sounds of sniper rifles, the “whomp” of a car impacting and adding some serious weight to fisticuffs. Even the score is impressively deep and powerful, adding a sense of urgency and suspense to the film. Well done in every way, it hovers right on the edge of being a perfect audio score. Very well done.
“The Suspect” is definitely a popcorn movie, but a very enjoyable popcorn movie that balances just the right amount of action and intrigue to keep the viewer glued to the screen. The fight scenes are engaging, and a lot of fun, even a bit old fashioned with some of the unrealistic stunts done in the movie (car chase especially) that hearkens back to a day when the hero could withstand a barrage of gunfire, all the while having enough bullets to take down an army single-handedly. The audio and video in the release are absolutely fantastic and gives your home theater quite a workout. The only real downside to the entire release is that besides one single trailer, it’s a fairly bare bones on the extras. However, don’t let that dissuade you from watching a very entertaining spy vs. spy action film. Definitely recommended.
Starring: Yoo Gong, Jae-yun Jo, Seong-ha Jo
Directed by: Shin-yeon Won
Written by: Shin-yeon Won
Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1 AVC
Audio: Korean: DTS-HD MA 5.1
Studio: Well Go USA
Rated: Not Rated
Runtime: 137 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: July 22nd 2014
Buy The Suspect Blu-ray on Amazon
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