Director: Jung Woo-Sung
Cast: Jung Woo-Sung, Kim Nam-gil, Park Sung-Woong, Kim Jun-han, Park You-na
Runtime: 1 hr 38 mins
Rating: NC16 (Some Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Golden VIllage Pictures
Opening Day: 7 September 2023
Synopsis: Soo Hyuk who spent 10 years in jail covering for his boss, is finally released. After learning that, during his time on the inside, he has become the father of a baby girl, Soo Hyuk wants to live a normal life with his former girlfriend, Min-seo, and their daughter, In-bi and cut his ties with the criminal world. But the boss who doesn't want to release Su-hyuk. The boss hires an assassin to silence him and the hitman holds Soo Hyuk's daughter hostage.
Perhaps inspired by his off-screen buddy, actor turned director Lee Jung-jae (Squid Game, Hunt), Jung Woo-sung directs himself in A Man of Reason making this actioner his directorial debut as well.
The “retired hitman” genre continues to strive given the astounding success of John Wick and The Equalizer. And this time, Jung plays Su-hyuk, a former gang member and powerful henchman of a crime syndicate who wishes to retire after spending a decade in prison.
Su-hyuk discovers he is now a father after his girlfriend, Min-seo bore him a daughter shortly after he is imprisoned. Min-seo offers him a chance to be a responsible father something which Su-hyuk decides on after declining working again for his former boss, Eung Kook (Park Sung-woon).
But as expected, chaos ensued when Eung Kook’s overzealous right-hand man, Kang (Kim Jun-han) orders two unhinged killers Woo-jin (Kim Nam-gil) and Jina (Park Yu-na) to assassinate Su-hyuk and in a twist of event, her daughter is kidnapped in the process.
Co-written by Jung, A Man of Reason is mostly let down by it’s by-the-numbers and weak narrative. The various colourful characters feel mostly like a caricature despite immense potential to develop further. Eung Kook is one menacing boss and Park nails it perfectly yet his character is mainly limited to a couple of growling exchanges with Kang. And talking about Kang, he is one inferior fellow that lacks a decent backstory to justify his detest for Su-hyuk.
Another issue lies in the casting of Kim Nam-gil and Park Yu-na who lacks the acting range to portray two psychotic killers on a mission to execute Su-hyuk. Kim probably got his idea of how to be a crazy killer from the Joker given his constant over-the-top screaming and whining. As for Jung, one of the biggest stars from Korea gives a fine, stoic performance as the quiet fighter who wishes for a normal life with his daughter. His character is closer to John Wick than Robert McCall. He doesn’t talk much and he prefers to let his black BMW does all the talking and manoeuvring.
While the story is almost barebones, A Man of Reason delivers a few ass-whopping action sequences particularly one that sees the BMW crashing through a hotel lobby with Kang and his henchmen being thrown around like rag dolls and a solid explosive chase sequence set in a tunnel. Not to mention a nail-biting, nail-gun shootout in a neighbourhood that took place prior which to be honest, deserved a far longer execution.
Although A Man of Reason serves as yet another boost of adrenalin given the excesses of GGI in contemporary cinemas, it lacks the complexity of Oldboy and the vigour of The Man of Nowhere to make it a memorable effort from Jung. Glaringly, the relationship between father and daughter is hardly explored as the story goes. As much as we want to embrace it, there’s better actioners with a heart out there. Let’s hope Jung can do better in his sophomore effort.
(Jung Woo-sung serves up a cliché actioner that features entertaining car crashes and fist fights)
Review by Linus Tee