Commitment: Film Review

Well-staged action sequences compensate for the unconvincing dramatic elements of this South Korean spy movie.

A young North Korean spy poses as a high school student in Park Hong-soo's action thriller.

A South Korean spy thriller that feels like a harder-edged variation on 21 Jump Street, Park Hong-soo's debut feature includes enough kinetic action sequences to satisfy genre fans even while its dramatic elements leave something to be desired. Starring Korean rap/pop star Choi Seung-hyun (aka T.O.P.) as a young North Korean forced to infiltrate the South posing as a high school student, Commitment, being released in several North American cities, is unlikely to attract non-Asian audiences in significant numbers.

The quietly charismatic young actor plays Myuung-hoon, who is sent with his sister to a labor prison camp after their father is killed during an espionage mission. He's given the chance to save her by agreeing to follow in his father's footsteps and is promptly sent to South Korea, where he assumes the role of a young student complete with a fake family.

Meeting a sensitive female classmate (Kim Yoo-jeong) who happens to have the same name as his sister, Myung-hoon begins protecting her from harassment by a gang of delinquents. But their burgeoning relationship is interrupted when the young spy finds himself threatened by both South Korean intelligence agents and his own repressive government, which sends assassins to dispatch him after he begins investigating his father's death.

The convoluted plot, involving Myung-hoon's interactions with a rogue's gallery of double agents, proves more than a little confusing, with the love story receiving short shrift. But director Hong-soo keeps the pace moving swiftly enough to compensate for the plot holes, and the numerous hand-to-hand combat sequences are choreographed and edited for maximum impact.

 Wearing a deadpan expression throughout that prevents us from becoming fully emotionally engaged with his character, Choi compensates by proving himself adept in the action department, displaying an agile physicality that makes his badass dispatching of numerous villains readily believable.

Cannily exploiting the explosive tensions between the two Koreas, Commitment almost but doesn't quite manage to transcend its familiar genre trappings.

Opens Dec. 6 (Well Go USA Entertainment)
Production: Golden Village Pictures, The Lamp, Golden Fish Pictures
Cast: Choi Seung-hyun, Han Ye-ri, Yoon je-moon, Cho Seong-ha, Kim Yoo-jung
Director: Park Hong-soo
Producers: Park Eun-kyung, Lee Duk-jae
Executive producer: You Jeong-hun
Screenwriter: Kim Soo-young
Director of photography: Kim Ki-tae
Editors: Kim Sang-bum, Kim Jae-bum
Production designer: Shin Bo-Kyung
Costume designer: Kim Jung-won
Not rated, 120 min.