Director: Kim Ji-hoon
Cast: Cha Seoung-won, Lee Kwang-soo, Kim Sung-kyun, Kim Hye-jun
Runtime: 1 hr 54 mins
Rating: PG (Some Intense Sequences)
Released By: Encore Films and Golden Village Pictures
Opening Day: 28 August 2021
Synopsis: An ordinary office worker Dong-won (KIM Sung-kyun) and his family move into a house he bought after years of saving. Overwhelmed with happiness, he invites his colleagues to a housewarming party, but heavy overnight rain leads to a gigantic sinkhole, and in a mere minute, it swallows up the entire apartment and the people inside. Hundreds of meters down the hole, Dong-won, his neighbor Man-su (CHA Seoung-won), and the unfortunate housewarming party guests (Lee Kwang-soo) must find their way out. Rain starts to pour down, filling the sinkhole with water, giving them very little time to get back to the surface.
Disaster movies often take themselves too seriously. While they are natural candidates to entertain the senses (Send in the meteors and set fire across the fields! Crack the highways open and swallow all the vehicles! Collapse all the high rise buildings and bury innocent people!), they can also be overbearing and score low on the fun scale.
Thankfully, this Korean blockbuster doesn’t fall into that trap. Meant to be released in its home country during the harvest festival last year, it was postponed due to the resurgence of COVID-19. When it opened in theatres in early August, local audiences lapped it up. The movie gained one million admissions within six days of release and is the fast film to do so in 2021. It is currently the second highest grossing Korean movie this year, with an impressive box office earning of US$16.09 million.
The movie’s protagonist is an earnest man who moves into an apartment with his family after working hard for 11 years. The morning after a housewarming party and a heavy overnight downpour, he finds himself in a house that has sunk into the ground. Together with his guests and a sulky neighbour, they must find a way to survive the catastrophe. Amidst the rubble, rain continues to pour, making it even more challenge to escape.
It is not difficult to see why the movie is so popular. While it is not headlined by Korean hunks, the main stars are crowd pullers in their own ways. Cha Seung-won has long time fans from his wide variety of works, while Kim Sung-kyun is an established artiste with several acting awards. Then you have Lee Kwang-soo from the hit variety show Running Man, who is a natural at drawing laughs. The setup is also relatable, After 11 years of work, considering how the protagonist is an everyday man who puts together enough savings to purchase an apartment. This is somewhat of an important milestone and class distinction in the country.
But most importantly, there is quite a substantial amount of laughs, thanks to the dynamics between the characters. Kim’s honest role is constantly being jibed at by Cha’s crafty character. Cha is a standout here as a seemingly sloppy individual whom you don’t want as your neighbour. His appearance is shoddy and unshaven, so it is difficult to imagine that the actor started his career as a fashion model. Elsewhere, Lee plays a guest who unluckily gets trapped in the sunken building with a fellow colleague (Kim Hye-jun).
The 114 movie strikes a very fine balance between comedy, drama and action. There are even some heartfelt moments that will make sentimental viewers shed a few tears (spoiler: there will be casualties). The action sequences will leave you at the edge of your seat and praying for the main characters’ safety. The final sequences are brilliantly set up, and while it succeeds at creating claustrophobia, you will wonder how you would react if put in a similar situation.
(A solid piece of entertainment that will make you laugh, feel sentimental, and gasp for air at the edge of your seat)
Review by John Li