Director Chang's sophomore feature is a rousing remake of Fred Cavayé's 2010 effort "Point Blank", a French flick that failed to break even but whose promising premise Chang jumped on (after Juhn Jai-hong walked away from the directing duties) to tell a story that seemed fit for a Korean casting.
"The Target" had some tough competition when it screened back in April. This unrated action thriller never managed to rise higher than second, and was eventually ejected from the top ten when Tom Cruise's latest sci-fi film "Edge of Tomorrow" came to town. Despite the screenwriting talents of Jeon Cheol-hong (who wrote the recording-smashing "The Admiral: Roaring Currents" as well as the period player "KUNDO : Age of the Rampant) the presence and number of foreign and local delights (think "The Fatal Encounter" and "X-Men: Days of Future Past") pressured the film's ticket tally to settle at just under 3 million ($20.9M). It was disappointing; especially considering Jeon's next two contributions would bring in over 22 million admissions a few months later.
"The Target" follows an ex-mercenary (Ryu Seung-ryong as 'Yeo-hoon') on the run after being framed for a high-profile murder. The film opens with Yeo-hoon bleeding out of a gunshot wound to the gut, and narrowly avoiding getting his pineal gland pierced by some off-screen assassin. It's intense, especially how close some of these bullets appear to find their mark (a thrilling motif in "The Target"); bullets in Chang's piece seem magnetised to their target, and the many near misses magnified the thin difference between winning and losing, living or dying.
Tae-joon (Lee Jin-wook) is the unfortunate doctor who treats Yeo-hoon after a crunching car crash ends his pursuers' interest in his life. Tae-joon gets a call from a mysterious man who has taken his pregnant wife hostage, demanding that his new patient be snuck out of the building in exchange. Desperate, he does as he's told, but things quickly deteriorate and soon both Tae-joon and Yeo-hoon are on the run from some mercilessly corrupt cops packing power and resources.
The premise, while (openly) not terribly original, still managed to feel fresh and fits nicely into the thrilling landscape of modern Korean cinema. The French original may not have been quite the success story roaring for export, but Chang's version came, pleasantly (and like so many of the bullets fired throughout), very close to a serious hit. There was the odd staging slip, various hyperactive montages (which felt more unnecessary than anything else), and a moot dénouement that reeked of last minute meddling.
Still, despite these unpolished points of interest the film was both stylishly shot and intense. Tae-joon and Yeo-hoon (an unlikely duo made with parts both hero and anti-hero) orbit and complement each other to great effect, and their opponent (the sinister chief Song played by Yoo Joon-sang) was slick and sadistic; a stunningly single-minded man only just in control of his own faulty facilities. The characters were worth caring about, and the stakes were too high for any corner of this obtuse triangle to step back or away. It's a good story well told, and while not convincingly polished or pushed, it's still another thrilling addition to one of Korea's most popular genres.
Available on DVD from YESASIA
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