Director: Park Hoon-jung
Cast: Shin Si-ah, Park Eun-bin, Seo Eun-soo, Jin Gu, Sung Yoo-bin, Cho Min-su, Lee Jong-seok, Kim Da-mi
Runtime: 2 hrs 17 mins
Rating: NC16 (Violence and Coarse Language)
Released By: Clover Films and Golden Village Pictures
Official Website: https://witch2.kr
Opening Day: 30 June 2022
Synopsis: From the ashes of ground zero where it all started, another Witch is awakened! A mysterious girl survives a bloody raid at the top secret lab known as Ark. The outside world is foreign to her, but luckily she befriends Kyung-hee and Dae-gil by accident, who become her only friends. As they begin to enjoy the ebb and flow of their ordinary lives, a group of deadly assassins track her down to serve their own goal...
Prior knowledge of ‘The Witch Part 1: The Subversion’ is not necessary to comprehend the events of this next chapter, though those who recall the 2018 film will have the context of just what the Witch programme was all about as well as appreciate the significance of certain supporting characters, such as its now-retired director Baek (Cho Min-su); otherwise, writer-director Park Hoon-jung has shrewdly opted to structure this as a standalone narrative, leaving till the end to introduce the necessary connective tissue to link this with the earlier film and tease a finale for his fantasy-horror-action genre hybrid.
‘The Witch Part 2: The Other One’ in fact begins with a prologue to establish how the programme started, with the kidnapping of a young pregnant woman from a tour bus whose unborn progeny probably formed the basis of the genetic experiment to create super-powered individuals with both telekinetic and psionic abilities. The titular subject in this regard is Cynthia (Shin Si-ah), the sole survivor of a brutal attack on another of the top-secret underground Ark research facilities. After wandering through the snowy Jeju woods, Cynthia crosses the path of a carload of local gangsters, who have kidnapped a woman named Kyung-hee (Park Eun-bin) in the back to intimidate her to sell the family land her late father refused to.
These thugs will be the unfortunate first outside victims of Cynthia’s mysterious powers, and in response to rescuing her, Kyung-hee will not only bring Cynthia to a local doctor to seek medical assistance but also back to her farm to stay with her and her brother Dae-gil (Sung Yoo-bin). It is at the countryside cottage with Kyung-hee and Dae-gil that Cynthia will get her first taste of what it is like to have family, although it should come as no surprise that it is precisely these newfound feelings of kinship which will fuel her vengeance against those who descend on the farm in the last act.
On Cynthia’s heels are two groups of mercenaries with different agendas. The first led by chief Jo-hyun (Seo Eun-soo) and her Caucasian sidekick (Justin John Harvey) have been sent by director Baek to retrieve Cynthia, and are transhumans gifted with superhuman strength. The second led by a bunch of superpowered youth called Unions are bent on destroying the various Arks around the world, and are responsible for the attack on the one from which Cynthia had escaped from. Both factions will undoubtedly fight it out amongst themselves as well, though Park largely saves that for the busy climax.
To make matters more complicated, Cynthia also has to deal with crime boss Yong-du (Jin Gu), who was behind Kyung-hee’s kidnapping in the first place and whom we learn only towards the end was an associate of Kyung-hee’s dad before he turned on him. Though at first terrified by Cynthia’s display of powers after intimidating Kyung-hee and Dae-gil on their ranch, Yong-du will return to confront both siblings alongside Cynthia’s enemies, setting the stage for an epic showdown that will see these various disparate factions face off against each other, often with gory results.
Not surprisingly, the finale is the film’s piece de resistance, and despite an unnecessarily long set-up, is well worth the wait. From a one-on-one knife fight atop a billboard, to a two-on-two battle between the Transhumans and Unions, and finally to the ultimate unleashing of Cynthia’s powers, Park isn’t afraid to push the envelope for swift, brutal action. There are some obvious similarities with the ‘X-Men’ movies, given how the individuals here wield similar powers, but Park mixes strong action choreography with solid visual effects for a rousing finish.
As much as the spectacular finish is worth the price of admission alone, it should be said that the journey there can sometimes be a slog and a bore. The intentionally comic banter between Jo-hyun and her partner is forced at times and downright cringe-worthy at others, the latter in particular when he calls her out for cussing at him in Korean. There is also too little context to inform where and what drives these rival factions, or for that matter what is behind their rivalry. And like we said, the pacing loses its momentum in the middle, especially when trying to tie together Yong-du and the Union assassins.
For those who do remember ‘The Witch Part 1: The Subversion’, ‘The Witch Part 2: The Other One’ is undoubtedly less superior. The plotting is not as tight, the characters less compelling, and only the action, especially the final showdown, matches up. Those who have seen Park’s ‘I Saw The Devil’ and ‘The Unjust’ will probably feel even more that he can do much better, and certainly with the first movie’s protagonist Ya-joon (Kim Da-mi) making a last-minute appearance at the end of this one, we hope Park can muster his creative genius to deliver a resounding conclusion to an ambitious but flawed trilogy.
(A spectacular, gory finish saves what is otherwise an overplotted but underdeveloped set-up of a sequel that is far less superior than its predecessor)
Review by Gabriel Chong