Days of Wrath (Eungjingja): Filmart Review
Shin Dong-yeop's thriller sees a down-and-outer tearing his high-school tormentor's life apart after a chance encounter decades after their graduation.
The latest in a long line of South Korean revenge dramas, Shin Dong-yeop's first foray away from his comedic métier (The Wedding Scandal, Super Monkey Returns) is an average thriller bearing a canny similarity with Park Chan-wook's genre-defining Oldboy. Revolving around a war of attrition between two men with bad blood going all the way back to their high-school days, Days of Wrath rarely lives up to the menace as promised by either its English or original Korean title (which translates to simply Punisher).
With Yun Jun-hul's screenplay opting for a straightforward narrative about two men just upping the ante in acts aimed at exercising past demons, the film doesn't offer the meticulous puppeteering moves now deemed de rigueur for stories about a wronged man toying with his high-flying ex-tormentor from the shadows. Stripped of such intrigue, Days of Wrath is a bit too slight to travel beyond its home market, at a time and age when well-packaged, twist-laden conspiracies are commonplace.
Told in a linear fashion, the story begins with the lead character Joon-seok (Kim Kwon) endlessly terrorized by his classmate Chang-sik (Kang Dae-hyun). The abuse snowballs, leading eventually to Joon-seok's girlfriend So-eun (Kang Bok-eum) killing herself after Chang-sik raped her before the bullied boy.
It's an episode that scars Joon-seok (played by Joo Sang-wook as a grown-up) for life: Unable to recover from the nightmarish experiences, his career falls apart when potential employers refuse to take him on board. Being a victim of abuse, according to the company men, actually points to a person's inability to work with others in South Korea's team-based corporate culture. His anguish grows as he runs into Chang-sik (Yang Dong-geun), who was untouched by his past misdemeanors and is preparing for a bright career and marriage to a beautiful doctor (Lee Tae-im).
So far, so promising: The smaller details here seem to point to a layered story about a man struggling against the odds of class-oriented inequality.
The first attempts of Joon-seok in getting even with Chang-sik also brims with promise too, as he carefully lays down traps to bring his nemesis down. But as the film proceeds, Shin has opted for senseless violence than strategic revenge. It's here that Days of Wrath begins to unravel, its early potential melting away to just plain manifestations of fury.
Venue: Hong Kong Filmart, Mar. 25
Production Company: NBrix in association with Invent D, Ds Media, O&Company Korea
Director: Shin Dong-yeop
Cast: Yang Dong-geun, Joo Sang-wook, Lee Tae-im, Jang Tae-sung, Ban Mi-jung
Producer: Byeon In-seop, Shin Dong-yeop
Executive Producers: Byeon In-seop, Lee Sang-ryeol
Screenwriter: Yun Jun-hul
Director of Photography: Kim Hong-gi
Production Designer: Choi Jun-yeong
Editor: Kyung Min-ho
Music: Lee Eun-seok
International Sales: 9ers Entertainment