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[HanCinema's Film Review] "The Advocate : A missing body"

2015/11/14

Ho-seong (played by Lee Sun-kyun) is a somewhat eccentric lawyer. He uses his weirdly modulated tone of voice and tortured logical explanations to confuse juries into returning not-guilty verdicts. Ho-seong is kind of a jerk, and his semi-comedic powers of lawyering can only ever really be used to subvert justice for the sake of a paycheck. So matters take a turn for the strange when Ho-seong is forced to do battle against an elaborate corporate conspiracy more because he hates losing than because he actually cares about justice.

I tend to complain a lot about movies that use improbably conspiratorial corporate bogeymen as villains. And strictly speaking, "The Advocate : A missing body" is just as implausible as, say "Veteran" from earlier this year. Funnily enough I didn't mind this so much. Part of this is just due to the strength of Lee Sun-kyun's performance. He really sells Ho-seong's very specific mannerisms, to the point that Ho-seong feels more like a character from a TV show than he does the protagonist in a feature-length legal thriller.

Actually, the whole cast really does a great job bringing the case to life. Seon-min (played by Kim Go-eun) is a prosecutor who already knows Ho-seong, and her main impression of the man is that he is just so unbelievably annoying. And he is. What really sells the point, though, is that Ho-seong himself knows that he's really annoying, and every moment of minor victory is filled with very self-satisfied gloating on Ho-seong's part.

The writing as a whole is excellent, actually. Choi Kwan-yeong and Lee Gong-joo have constructed a very tight screenplay where every single scene, yes, that's right, every single one, contains a very important clue that ties everything together when the dopey Ho-seong pulls victory apparently out of thin air. It helps, by the way, that only the early portions of "The Advocate : A missing body" have much of a legal courtroom presence. Once the first leg of the mystery is solved, the narrative construction of "The Advocate : A missing body" is much more akin to a heist movie- where what's being heisted is evidence.

The sense of pacing and logic is excellent. Take the initial crime scene. I noticed all sorts of suspicious inconsistencies and so did Ho-seong. The fact that Ho-seong does not initially care whether or not his client is innocent also adds some great flavor. Particularly because later on, when Ho-seong does care about the innocence of his client, it's mostly because this has become the best way for him to come out of "The Advocate : A missing body" a winner.

"The Advocate : A missing body" is a solid, entertaining, smart, and all-around just plain fun legal thriller that plays well to its strengths. There's no pretentious hand-wringing over justice and legality here. The main joy here is watching Ho-seong use his smarts to show those corporate types that real brains comes from a well-educated mind, not the ability to manage an army of dopey goons. The film is a great example of how it's easy to forgive a script for making the bad guy overpowered when the main effect of this is to make it that much more satisfying when the hero's awesome plan obliterates everything.

Review by William Schwartz

"The Advocate : A missing body" is directed by Heo Jong-ho and features Lee Sun-kyun, Kim Go-eun and Im Won-hee.

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