SYNOPSIS: "The Villagers" is about a physical education teacher named Gi-cheol (Ma Dong-seok) who is assigned to a countryside high school due to an unfortunate incident. Then a student named Yoo-jin (Kim Sae-ron) asks questions about the disappearance of her friend.
For better or worse, Ma Dong-seok better known as Don Lee or the loving husband from Train to Busan has been typecast as a typical tough guy with a heart of gold. In The Villagers also known as Ordinary People, Ma plays Gi-cheol, an ex-boxer turned gym teacher cum school fees collector. And no surprises, Gi-cheol is a tough guy on the outside but with a penchant for UFO claw machines.
Set in a small rural town where the police, locals and politicians seem to be turning a blind eye to a case of a missing teenager. Gi-cheol and the best friend of the missing teenager, Yoo-jin (played by a grown up Kim Sae-ron from The Man from Nowhere) decides to do their own investigation on her mysterious disappearance ultimately leading them to a night club where the victim once worked at.
The Villagers is a movie littered with flaws if not for the intense chemistry between Ma and Sae-ron. Ma might not have the range of an award-winning actor but he has the charm, built and skills to keep audiences glued while Kim Sae-ron proved she can be as versatile as any veteran actresses out there.
Directed and written by newcomer Lim Jin-soon, the plotting of The Villagers is a mishmash of genres and premises. It started off well enough as a mysterious crime flick before turning into a corrupted political drama with some psychological thrills thrown in then it starts to serve up a couple of brawl scenes towards the end because you can’t have Don Lee in a movie without throwing any punches. Despite the complains, Lim manages to keep things coherent and the pacing fast enough to make you forget about the plot holes and the weaker parts of the story.
If you simply just want to watch Don Lee whoop some serious asses, you might want to wait for the finale as The Villagers is not exactly action-packed from start to end. It’s an ambitious movie that churned out a few statements on the political situation and social issues but liked its character developments, none of them are exactly well-developed and panned out. Still, The Villagers is an enjoyable flick if you lower your expectations a little. Check it out if you have the chance.
Review by Linus Tee