Director: Hong Won-Chan
Cast: Hwang Jung-Min, Lee Jung-Jae, Park Jung-Min, Choi Hee-seo, Park Myung-hoon
Runtime: 1 hr 48 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Some Coarse Language)
Released By: Filmgarde
Opening Day: 17 September 2020
Synopsis: A shocking kidnapping case takes place in Thailand. In-Nam (Hwang Jung-Min) just completed his last murder for hire contract as an assassin. He is aware that the kidnapping case is related to him. In-Nam heads to Thailand. There, he meets his helper Yoo-Yi (Park Jung-Min) and they work on the kidnapping case. Meanwhile, Ray (Lee Jung-Jae) learns that his sibling was assassinated by In-Nam. To take revenge on In-Nam, he heads to Thailand.
As its title suggests, ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ is a hard-boiled South Korean crime thriller in the same vein as ‘Old Boy’, ‘A Bittersweet Life’ and even writer-director Hong Won-chan’s previous ‘New World’. Yet even among its ilk, Hong’s latest stands out as one the more violent and gory ones we have seen in recent years, although it does at the same time pack an emotional wallop few genre predecessors do.
Reuniting his leads from ‘New World’, Hong casts Hwang Jung-min this time as a contract killer In-nam who has been promised a final job by his handler; that job is the assassination of a ruthless Tokyo mob boss whom he despatches with brutal professionalism. In-nam is planning his retirement in the Panamanian beaches when he gets word through his former Black Ops unit boss that his former lover Yeong-joo (Choi Hee-soo) is trying to reach out to him.
Not wanting to revisit his past, In-nam ignores the request to talk; alas, Yeong-joo is found viciously murdered in Thailand a few days back, and In-nam learns that it follows the kidnapping of her young daughter. It should come as no surprise that In-nam is in fact the father to Yeong-joo’s child, and that the former resolves then to locate the missing kid before her organs are illegally harvested for sale.
That personal mission is however complicated by the entry of an utterly cold-blooded killer Ray (Lee Jung-jae), driven by the need to avenge his slain brother, i.e. In-nam’s last job. Ray leaves a trail of bodies and blood consisting In-nam’s contacts along the way, setting the stage for a series of fierce confrontations along the streets of Bangkok where this movie had been filmed.
The set-pieces in this regard are excellent – from a closed-room fight which sees Ray slash and slay about a dozen Thai goons who had the gall to ambush him; to a mano-a-mano knife fight between In-nam and Ray along a narrow hallway; to an intense vehicular chase/ gunfight which also involves the local cops; and finally to the extended finale where In-nam and Ray have a fight to the death at the back of a moving SUV. Each is exhilarating in its own right, and the fact that Hwang and Lee perform most of the stunts on their own just makes it all the more thrilling to witness.
Amidst the carnage and bloodshed though, Hong weaves a tender story of a father connecting with the daughter he never knew existed, as well as doing all it takes in order to protect her from evil. It is a familiar trope no doubt, but Hong’s poignant treatment of it, coupled with an affecting turn by Hwang, makes it nonetheless effective and moving. Hwang’s compassionate performance is also intended as sharp contrast to Lee’s psychopathy, which is as scary, intense and committed as you would expect a veteran character actor like Lee to pull off.
For sheer comic relief and then some, Hong throws in an interesting side character in the form of a transvestite Yoo-yi (Park Jung-min), who helps In-nam navigate the colourful local community of gangsters, cops and crime. Such characters usually walk a thin line between being authentic and farcical, but it is a relief that Yoo-yi comes off most, if not always, the former; indeed, Yoo-yi plays a surprisingly significant role in the plotting towards the end.
In addition to the stellar cast, Hong has assembled an equally talented behind-the-scenes ensemble: cinematographer Hong Gyeong-pyo (of ‘Parasite’ and ‘Burning’) fully capitalises the on-location shooting in Korea, Japan and Thailand in the rich visual palette which he captures for the movie; while composer Mowg enhances the atmospherics with a stellar score.
It is no wonder that ‘Deliver Us From Evil’ gave the Korean box office some much-needed salvation post-COVID-19, and has even surpassed the Train to Busan sequel ‘Peninsula’ in its gross. This is every bit the visceral crime thriller you would be expecting, packed with action, emotion and devotion, the last by its two compelling leads Hwang and Lee. We dare say it is one of our favourite Korean films this year, so if you’re a fan of the genre, this is quite certainly one of the must-sees.
(Intense, violent and packing an emotional wallop, this brutal crime thriller that reunites 'New World' leads Hwang Jung-min and Lee Jung-jae is a sheer visceral delight for genre fans)
Review by Gabriel Chong