Movie Review – Running Man (the movie) (2013)

Running_Man_-_Korean_Movie-0007Eh..no, this has nothing to do with Running Man variety shows. It does in fact, has similarities with Two Weeks or Fugitive of Joseun (Mandate of Heaven). Although I haven’t seen it released in Singapore, it had been online for viewing since April 2013 (after its release).

Main cast:

  • Shin Ha-Kyun (All about my Romance) as Cha Jong-woo, the fugitive in the movie. Also a good-for-nothing daddy and basically another lowdown scum. In and out of prisons for petty offences like housebreaking, car thieving. Generally known by the police as a slippery eel (he successfully evades capture a few times under the cops’ noses)
  • Lee Min-ho (Rooftop Prince, NOT the City Hunter guy!as Cha Gi-Hyuk, Jong-woo’s son. Genius, but a trouble maker in school with a fiery temper. Totally estranged with daddy, since he feels his dad is irresponsible…and probably didn’t want him in the first place.
  • Kim Sang-ho (Ten) as An Sang-ki, the captain of the detective team…but seriously, sux in his job. His subordinates basically do not respect him. (It is totally unlike Kim Sang-ho’s Do-sik in Ten!!!). He is friend with Jong-woo, probably cause he was the one who captured him nth times in the past…
  • Jo Eun-ji (Personal Taste) as Park Sun-young, the ultra super nosy small-time reporter, whose hobby is haunting the police station and shooting stuff on the sly with her camphone. She annoys the hell out of Sang-ki, but both of them are still buddies.
  • Oh Jong-se (I Miss You) as Jang Do-sik, an ex-convict turned theatre manager (but operates a rental for SM and fetish costumes store behind the scenes). Also an ex-hacker, supposedly hacked in the Blue House (Presidential Office) before he served jail term.

Quick synopsis:

fullsizephoto278903Jong-woo is a car mechanic by day and a call-driver (sends drunk guests home) by night. From his previous convictions, we learn that he is “skilled” in several things, namely, breaking into a car/house within 3 secs, Initial-D-worthy driving skills, and of cos, superb evasive skills which a parkour expert will envy. One night, he happens to think he struck jackpot by sending a wealthy looking gentleman to the post office and then the airport. Unfortunately for him, when he reaches the airport, he finds out that his client is very dead. Before the parking lot’s security guard catches him, his first instinct is to bolt. Subsequently, he is hunted by 3 parties – the police, the Internal Security and a mysterious pair of assassins.

Gi-Hyuk, his son, is none too pleased when the police come searching for his dad, and flipping through their modest (and scrummy) apartment. He decides to track down his dad for explanations (and to give him a piece of his mind). He finally meets up with dad, and after hearing his story, starts to believe that he is framed for the murder. So he decides to solve the case himself. He unearths evidence (on a cctv) that the victim was murdered before his dad sent him to the airport. This victim is a staff member of the French embassy in Korea, and appeared to have bought information from a Korean weapons manufacturer on one of the fighter jets which the Korean government is producing for the States. Interestingly, the Korean weapons manufacturer was also found dead (deemed to be from a heart attack) on the same night in a different place.

1369217547981_danh-ca-dai-chien-running-man-b85442With Gi-Hyuk, policeman friend Sang-ki, reporter Park and ex-convict Jang’s help, Jong-woo managed to figure out the reason why everyone is hot on his heels. Turns out that the victim had sent the weapons information to Jong-woo’s handphone by mistake. The video encrypted in the message showed a fighter jet (co-designed by the States and S Korea) bursting into flames during the test flight.

As the mysterious pair of assassins sent to kill Jong-woo looked too local to be US or French citizens, Jong-woo guesses that someone must be selling this information to another third party. His guess is confirmed when Internal Security chief calls him and says he has taken Gi-Hyuk as hostage in exchange for the information on the handphone.

What ensues later is the ensnaring of the bad guys, since we now know their identity. Jong-woo (after undergoing much trials under the baddies’ hands) lays a trap for them. He lures them to a warehouse, where he has set up videocams with direct feed to Jang’s laptop — and also to reporter Park, who is at the KBS TV station promising a big scoop. Jong-woo nearly dies in the attempt to escape after the baddies realise they are on tape. Lucky for him, Gi-Hyuk manages to save him in time.

And I am glad to say, the show ends on a happy note, with Jong-woo and Gi-Hyuk reaching a mutual understanding, detective Sang-ki getting recognised for his “detecting skills” (though he really didn’t do much), and reporter Park getting her 3 seconds of fame on air.

Review:

fullsizephoto280630Plot is straightforward and simple, with no biggie twist. But a total fun watch, especially if you are an action fan like me. There are really well scripted car chases (and I mean REALLY well…there are bits where my heart was lodged somewhere in my throat)…and Jong-woo, is a real parkour pro. He definitely can teach poor Tae-sun in Two Weeks some moves for evading virtually anything and anyone. He is also not the goondu (read: stupid as Yang Shi-on in Who Are You), who messes up (or loses) critical evidence. He doesn’t get played by the bad guys in the show, determining when and where to exchange hostages. He may be an ex-convict,but he is definitely the one with brains.

Thematically, the underdog winning the day always never fails to please. Because it is easy to identify with the protagonist — Jong-woo has reasons why he ended up as a “good-for-nothing”. Probably like many of us, his intention was good…he did set out to be a good single dad, and he volunteered to raise Gi-Hyuk when his wife was forced to migrate to the States as her family objected to their romance/ marriage. But along the way, circumstances dealt Jong-woo really bad cards, eventually turning him into a petty thief…and a loser in his son’s eyes.

YPJFbhrnpbeSQhimfRAWPersonally, I find Lee Min-ho’s portrayal of Gi-Hyuk slightly lukewarm…and pales in comparison to Shin Ha-Kyun’s Jong-woo. Maybe this is not fair to Lee Min-ho, since the spotlight of the whole movie is on Jong-woo. But I do think that the conflict Gi-Hyuk felt towards his dad could have been better dealt with. It is easy to turn from disliking Jong-woo (the cheesy sloppy dad) to finally rooting for him, partly from Shin’s realistic portrayal of Jong-woo’s desperation, then later his need to protect his son (above his own well-being), and finally his determination to take the bad guys down (with him, if necessary).

And of cos, I must also mention Kim Sang-ho and Jo Eun-ji’s roles in the movies. Although they are only supporting cast, and their characters are slightly 2D, they did a really good job in bringing bumbling Detective Sang-ki and nosyparker Reporter Park to life. The show would have been really quite flat without the chemistry between the two and Jong-woo.

4-4.5/5 stars

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