• Suspect, The



    Released by: Well Go USA
    Released on: July 22, 2014
    Director: Won Shin-yeon
    Cast: Yoo Gong, Hee Soon-Park, Jo Sung-ha
    Year: 2013
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    The Movie

    The Suspect is the latest from versatile South Korean director Won Shin-yeon (Seven Days, The Wig), whose previous films have been a mixture of drama, black comedy, and horror. The Suspect finds Won working in the popular South Korean spy thriller genre, which helped bring the Korean new wave to international attention with director Je-gyu Kang's Shiri back in 1999.

    The Suspect stars Gong Yoo (Silenced, She's On Duty) as Ji Dong-chul, a former North Korean spy who defected to the South and is now working as a driver for an elderly Chairman. After being invited to the home Chairman Park, Ji watches as the chairman is poisoned by an assassin. Before he dies, Park gives Ji an eyeglass case and tells him to bury it. Before he can ask what the Chairman meant by this, more assassins arrive to kill the Chairman's housekeepers and any remaining witnesses. Ji escapes, but becomes the lead suspect in the Chairman's murder, which is under investigation by South Korea's National Security Intelligence Agency (NSIA). Leading the investigation for NSIA is Colonel Min Se-hun (Hee Soon-Park), a badass spy-catcher with a sweet leather coat and a ruthless integrity who encountered Ji when he was still a North Korean agent.

    The plot thickens as we learn that while Ji is on the run from the NSIA, he's also chasing after another former North Korean agent named Gwang-jo. Ji believes that Gwang-jo murdered his wife and daughter after his defection. Aided by a determined documentary film producer (Yoo Da-in), Ji learns that Gwang-jo is involved with a secret group of assassins called The Order. The group has ties North Korea and within the NSIA. Ji also finds out that the eyeglasses case contains a secret formula that The Order are willing to kill for. Meanwhile, Colonel Min also learns about the existence of The Order and becomes convinced that the Director of the NSIA, Kim Seok-ho (Jo Sung-ha), is working with them. He finds the one man he can trust in the NSIA, a bubblegum chewing dandy, and secretly has him running a counter-investigation to prove Ji's innocence and reveal Director Kim's involvement with The Order.

    What all of this setup amounts to is an epic chase film, in which the cops are hunting down a fugitive who is chasing after his wife and daughter's killer. Ji isn't concerned with proving his innocence. He just wants his revenge. As far as the story goes, comparisons to the Harrison Ford thriller The Fugitive as well as The Bourne Identity are apt. In terms of style, it is most definitely a mix between your standard Korean spy film and the Paul Greengrass style of action moviemaking. 2013 saw the release of two other high profile Korean spy thrillers: The Berlin File and Committment (which I reviewed here), In spite of this crowded market, The Suspect manages to elude feeling too derivative. For the first half of 137 minute running time, The Suspect is an exhilarating thrill ride full of razor-sharp fight scenes, staccato editing, and one intense action sequence after another. Once it starts, The Suspect never lets go and doesn't slow down except to generate tension before triggering another explosive action sequence. Some of the car stunts in particular are pretty great, and feature no apparent use of CGI. The fights are edited together with a rapid-fire rhythm that is dizzying, but never too hard to follow. However, most viewers will probably feel like the action set pieces start to blur together near the second half of the film. While it's all very well made, at over two hours long The Suspect possibly delivers too much of a good thing. It also doesn't help that although it looks much more expensive than its $9.5 million budget would suggest, it doesn't really do anything stylistically to set itself apart from similar South Korean action films.

    Gong Yoo is a credible lead here, but he's not especially memorable and there are any number of Korean leading men that could have replaced him here. His role in The Suspect is more physically demanding than anything else. Throughout most of the movie he's involved in some form of action, and during the numerous action or stunt sequences he acquits himself quite well. Yoo's character is given a little more dramatic weight near the latter half, but beyond the basic motivation of revenge he doesn't have much of a personality or any charisma as a lead. That's not really a liability for the film, because the most entertaining and charismatic performance comes from Hee Soon-Park as Colonel Min, who's a smoking, leather-jacketed, dick-swinging action movie cliché. His over the top, ultra macho performance makes Colonel Min the man to watch in every scene he's in. Jo Sung-ha is so unlikeable as the corrupt Director Kim that you'll be begging for his comeuppance, making the final payoff that much sweeter. Unfortunately, the rest of the cast are pretty anonymous, and don't leave much of an impression.

    It might be too long to maintain your undivided attention for its 137 minute running time, but unlike Commitment and a lot of recent South Korean actioners, The Suspect is light on melodrama and high on action. It starts at a fast clip and doesn't stop ramping up the tension, or throwing Ji from one action set piece into another, until its heartfelt conclusion brings his quest for revenge to an end. It's an entertaining watch, but The Suspect is guilty of being a bit overlong, especially towards the back end of the film.

    Audio/Video/Extras

    The Suspect arrives on Blu-ray in its original aspect ration of 2.39:1 with an arresting high definition AVC encoded transfer. The film has a dominantly teal and orange color scheme and it appears that it has been heavily color graded. Consequently, during bright scenes or under any kind of light source character's faces and skin appear either tinted orange or unnaturally bronzed, while darker scenes or at night they take on a teal or dark blue tint. Detail tends to suffer the most on character's faces or bodies when the colors have been most obviously altered. It's a minor annoyance however, and the level of fine detail in the picture is very high. This is especially true during The Suspect's many close-ups, where every blemish or bit of facial hair can be clearly made out. Overall, The Suspect is consistent with the high standards set by most Well GO USA releases on Blu-ray.

    The Korean 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio presentation on this Blu-ray is quite good. Dialogue comes out of the center channel and is clear but somewhat on the quiet side. The remaining channels handle the score and foley effects, and it's in this area where the audio presentation really shines. The fight scenes and stunt sequences sound just as good as they look, with distinct audio details given to every movement, every strike, and every bit of environmental damage. The propulsive score pans throughout the speakers, driving the action. The dialogue sounds a bit louder in the Korean 2.0 Stereo track, however, neither the score nor the effects sound as immersive. The English subtitles are easy to read, so I would recommend using the 5.1 DTS-HD option over the 2.0 Stereo track.

    There are no special features on this Blu-ray. The only extras included are a trailer for The Suspect, and previews for other upcoming Well Go USA releases.

    The Final Word

    The Suspect's biggest issue is that at over two hours long, it delivers enough action to keep you moderately entertained but not enough that you won't start feeling fatigued in the second half by the never ending (and never exceptional) stunts and chase sequences. That said, it's still a pretty decent film and it keeps the melodrama to a relative minimum. Fans of espionage films who want to see South Korea's answer to the Bourne franchise should give The Suspect a watch.


    Click on the images below for full sized Blu-ray screen caps!