Director: Park Hong-soo
Cast: Choi Seung-hyun (T.O.P), Han Ye-ri, Yoon Je-moon, Cho Seong -ha, Kim Yoo-jung
RunTime: 1 hr 53 mins
Released By: GV
Opening Day: 21 November 2013
Synopsis: After his father is killed in the South, North Korean Myung-hoon and his young sister Hye-in are sent to a labor prison camp. In order to save his sister’s life and his own, Myung-hoon becomes a spy and infiltrates to the South as a teenage defector. He assumes the role of an ordinary high school student and carries out missions when his orders are given. To his surprise though, he meets a fellow classmate girl named Hye-in, and he comes to her rescue when she is bullied. South Korean Intelligence agent Cha soon discovers of Myung-hoon’s activities and begins tracking him, all the while his own government sends a vicious assassin to eliminate him… .
Almost 10 out of 10 Korean films about North-South Korean disputes have that same faithful ending. Commitment was no exception. In order to preserve the life of his only surviving family member, Myung-hoon (T.O.P) was sent out of his country to become a spy in South Korea. He disguised as a teenage defector, to infiltrate and carry out top missions involving the bureaucracies’ dispute. In hopes of going home to a bright future, Myung-hoon became unafraid and ruthless, taking down the opponents one by one. Even before he realizes it, he has become a killing machine, a chess piece craftily manipulated by his government.
However, Myung-hoon’s encounter with Hye-in (same name as Myung-hoon’s sister, played by Han Ye-ri) at high school changed him. He slowly began to open up and started relate to her circumstances, and possibly made his first friend. His commitment to his country and perhaps his commitment to his personal beliefs were eventually put to a test. What would he do if he learns about the truth of his father’s death? What would he do if he knew about his actual fate?
With a quick glance, the narrative actually does appear to be quite promising. However, here we have a case of a rather good premise, but average execution in terms of the writing and development. Other than Hye-in and Myung-hoon being the constants, the other characters either had no relevance or were brought in too briefly. This result in a disconnection with the audience and probably many do not understand what exactly is going on in the movie. The missions that Myung-hoon carried out also got boring because they were simply repetitive, taking on the same pattern each time he encounters a new opponent.
The highlight of the movie is undoubtedly T.O.P. Unlike in 71 into the Fire (2010), where he was given a more secondary role, his role in this movie was more crucial and demanded more from him. His acting was not as outstanding as that in 71 into the Fire, but his close combat scenes were exhilarating and impressive. It was refreshing to see him in this light, apart from seeing T.O.P rap in his playful and mischievous ways, or strutting the fashion runway.
Casting wise, it is quite mind-boggling as to why T.O.P was chosen to take on a teenage role. I know right. T.O.P as a ‘high school student’? Even Han Ye-ri, Myung-hoon’s high school classmate Hye-in, is actually 28 years old this year. It seems like the director and producers probably didn’t want to put their bet on the younger actors and actresses. Nevertheless, it is a good move since both of them proved to be much of a value-add to the drama aspect of the movie.
Characteristically Korean, ‘Commitment’ is just as sappy and melodramatic as every other Korean movie. Unfortunately, this didn’t work to the advantage of the movie and instead seemed too intentional and immature. Coupled with the rather unpolished narrative and over emphasis on uncovering the inconspicuous intent of the bureaucracy, ‘Commitment’ lacked a good flow and story development that can fully capture the audiences.
(Just about any other South Korean film on North Korean spies; fortunately, this one is at least spiced up with T.O.P.)
Review by Tho Shu Ling