The son of a North Korean spy decides to follow in his father’s footsteps to protect his little sister.
James Bond. Jason Bourne. Ri Myung-hoon. Everyone will undoubtedly recognize the first two names but the third name is the lead character in the new Korean action-thriller “Commitment”, from first-time director Hong-soo Park. Ri Myung-hoon (Choi Seung-Hyun) is the teenage son of a deceased ex-North Korean agent who is tasked with killing a North Korean assassin in South Korea in order to save his younger sister Ri Hye-in (Kim Yoo-jung). I think we have all, at some point in our lives, imagined what it would be like to be a spy. Of course, for over fifty years, James Bond has been the most famous one of them all, which is really an oxy moron because if he’s a spy, people are not supposed to know who he is but this is fiction so we’ll give it a pass.
When Jason Bourne came onto the scene back in 2002, he upped the ante big-time with his lethal martial arts and realistic and brutal buoyancy and set the bar for future action movies. Its subsequent sequels also introduced, to nauseating effect, exaggerated shaky-cam which for me, was more of a distraction than an anything else so by the time “The Bourne Legacy” came out, thankfully, they had toned that aspect of the movie way down. “Commitment” is one of those rare movies with explosive action and thrilling fight choreography but it also has a believable story with very convincing performances and a lot of heart and soul.
Twenty year-old Ri Myung-hoon is being held captive in a North Korean prison camp, along with his younger sister Ri Hye-in, and is informed by Colonel Moon, that his father was a traitor and killed in South Korea on a secret mission. He is then offered the opportunity to be able to walk out of the camp along with his sister and embrace freedom only if he goes to South Korea and continues where his father left off and was subsequently killed.
He takes the job and is sent to South Korea where he is adopted by a South Korean couple who are actually North Korean spies and enrolls at a local high school. He gradually befriends Hye-in (Han Ye-ri), a bullied schoolgirl who shares the same name as his sister and has aspirations of becoming a professional dancer. Meanwhile, a power struggle ensues in North Korea with the failing health of dictator Kim Jong-il, and Ri Myung-hoon quickly becomes a liability and must ultimately cope with Colonel Moon’s treachery.
Ri Myung-hoon is played by Choi Seung-hyun, better known by his stage name T.O.P., a South Korean rapper, singer, songwriter, model, and actor, best known as a lead rapper of the hip hop Korean boy band Big Bang. Many times, when singers turn to acting it can be very hit and miss. Mark Wahlberg has proved his acting chops many times over but Mariah Carey on the other hand, should stick to singing and being a musical diva. Ri has the face of an innocent and because of this, he is able to perform his job with the least amount of suspicion but throughout the movie, he is called upon to emote in several heartbreaking scenes and he does so with great aplomb. He is able to go from a killing machine and in a split second, bring the tears when they are necessary and that is not an easy undertaking.
I have been reviewing a lot of Korean, Japanese and Chinese movies lately and I have to admit, for the most part, they far exceed most of the contrived drivel that passes for movies coming out of Hollywood these days. No wonder they have an incessant need to remake as many of these foreign movies as they possibly can. The old saying is “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery” but with so many aspiring and talented screenwriters, producers and directors out there, why is Tinseltown so adamant on remaking everything? The answer is simple: because Hollywood is fresh out of ideas and they are content stealing everybody elses. If you want to see a really good action movie with plausible story-telling and genuine performances, then see “Commitment”.
In stores March 11th
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