The Suspect: Film Review

High-octane "Bourne"-style action sequences enliven this kinetic South Korean import.

A spy defector finds himself pursued by relentless government agents in this South Korean action thriller.

Who needs subtitles when a film has as much slam-bang action as The Suspect, the second South Korean spy thriller to arrive here in as many months. Reflecting the heavy influence of the Bourne movies, this hyperkinetic pulp entertainment features enough car chases, shootouts and fight sequences to please genre aficionados of all ethnicities.

Of course, those subtitles will come handy when it comes to discerning the complexities of the exposition-heavy, flashback laden narrative. With a bloated running time of 137 minutes, the film threatens at times to wear out its welcome.

The title character is Ji Dong-cheol (Gong Yoo), a former North Korean superspy who defected after being betrayed by his superiors and nearly killed. Working in South Korea as a chauffeur for a millionaire CEO, he finds himself framed for murder when his boss is assassinated by masked intruders.

Ji goes on the run, being hotly pursued by a relentless government agent, Col. Min (Park Hee-soon), who bears a grudge relating to a previous encounter between the two during an operation in Hong Kong which resulted in Min’s being demoted. Also hot on Ji’s trail is a female documentary filmmaker (Yoo Da-in) who’s working on a project about defectors. Meanwhile, Jin attempts to discover the whereabouts of his missing wife and daughter who may have been killed by his former bosses.

Utilizing the hand-held camerawork and frenetic jump cuts that have become de rigueur for action movies the world over, director Won Shin-yun delivers a seemingly non-stop series of exciting set pieces that are only slightly marred by occasional visual incoherence. And while the screenplay by Lim Sang-yun is far too convoluted for its own good, its complex portrait of the deeply adversarial relationship between the two countries adds intriguing emotional and political resonance to the testosterone-laden proceedings.

Opens Jan. 10 (Well Go USA Entertainment)

Production: Green Fish Pictures, Showbox/Mediaplex

Cast: Gong Yoo, Park Hee-soon, Cho Seong-ha, Yoo Da-in, Kim Sung-kyun

Director: Won Shin-yun

Screenwriter: Lim Sang-yun

Producers: Lee Hyun-myung, You Jeong-hun

Executive producer: You Jeong-hun

Director of photography: Lee Chang-hwan

Editor: Shin Min-kyung

Production designer: Lee Jong-gun

Not rated, 137 min.

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