SOO (2007) is a film directed by Yoichi Sai, a Korean director who was born in Japan. Sai is responsible for the critically acclaimed violent family drama "Blood and Bones" and the amusing film about a puppy called "Quill". Interestingly, this is Sai's first Korean made film, both his two other films were produced in Japan. I just finished my reviews for Park Chan-Wook's "revenge trilogy" when I wrote this back in '07 and here I am reviewing another revenge film. (Maybe I should review a "chick flick" next--fat chance)
Taejin is a cop. Taesoo is an assassin; a good one at that, no one has seen him and his identity is unknown to ALMOST everyone. They are identical twins who used to wander around a marketplace until they became separated. (Ji Jin-Hee plays dual roles) Now, on the eve of their reunion, Taejin gets shot in the head before his brother's eyes. To find those responsible, Taesoo impersonates his brother to infiltrate the police force and embarks on a bloody trail of revenge against his brother's killers...
SOO being another revenge film will no doubt attract fans of Park's "vengeance" trilogy and Kim's "A Bittersweet Life". However, it takes a different route than the contemporary approaches in those other films; it avoids stylized visuals, no showy camera tricks and no touches of black humor. Sai's approach to revenge is pretty straight-forward; NO manipulative plot devices, NO INGENIUS plan, NO atmospheric touches such as throbbing music and NO lush cinematography that are usually present in Korean films. Taesoo's brother was killed before he could realize his dream; now, his only one goal is to find his brother's killer. It's that simple. The result is a cinematic journey that uses brutal violence as a `need' to satisfy the protagonist; not to attain sympathy for the victims. Sai is not reinventing anything; he effectively sets out to express a brother's grief through sheer unrelenting bloody VIOLENCE. But Taesoo also does display a great amount of intelligence in impersonating his brother. This assassin is a thinking, calculating assassin and his rage is more than enough to fuel the killing instinct within; violence is what he knows and he knows what he must do.
True, the violence in "Soo" is quite unrelenting and to its credit, brutally realistic. The fights look more like an expression of a brother's RAGE rather than a highly stylized fast-paced choreographed action footage. I commend the director's efforts in not following the heels of other revenge films. The scenes are chaotic, bloody and emphasizes Taesoo's will to avenge and will not stop until every one of those responsible is killed. Taesoo's weapon of choice is a knife (among other things), how does he compete with gangsters wielding firearms? Well, that's the ingenuity of "SOO"; it effectively expresses anger as a weapon. Sai doesn't hold back in its graphic nature; eyes will be knifed out of their sockets if need be. Taesoo is an expert assassin; imagine pissing off someone with the smarts and determination to survive. Wounded and bloody; he will plow down his enemies and keep on going like the Energizer Bunny. Ji Jin-Hee portrays Taesoo very convincingly; he will hit and stab his way to revenge, one dead body at a time.
While the film's main strengths come from Taesoo’s raw anger and delivery of sheer violence, one fault may actually come from his "invincibility". The last act may require a large suspension of disbelief and Taesoo's survival skills may come off a bit over-the-top that may require a suspension of disbelief. Despite this, the film’s climactic final encounter may still elevate the film to ‘cult classic’ status. One of the film‘s other shortfalls is that Taejin's background is not thoroughly explored. Aside, from his girlfriend, (Kang Seong-Yeon) Taejin's past is a bit blurry and leaves much for the viewer to connect the gaps. I suppose Sai really wanted the audience to care and feel for Taesoo's grief and lust for revenge rather than having us think for ourselves whether Taejin was worth killing so many people. (Gangsters maybe, but still people) Taesoo’s dreams of familial reunion has been scorned and dashed, the hell with anyone who doesn’t think that one’s brother is worth killing for.
"SOO" doesn't take the easy way to vengeance. It is not especially grounded and may feel a bit uneven. It is a film full of chaotic unrelenting violence and ultra-realistic bloody fight scenes. The film may not be perfect, but it is undeniably a compelling revenge flick with somewhat of an "art house" take. However, the film's effectiveness may be somewhat debatable but no one can say that it isn't wild and violent.
(I think this is the most I've said violent, blood and chaos, oh, well...)
HIGHLY RECOMMENDED! For those who appreciate challenging cinema. [4 stars]
I own the region-3 Korean release from Art Service. The U.S. Release is expected soon since it was part of an Asian film festival.
VIDEO/AUDIO: 1.78 Anamorphic widescreen. The picture is intentionally shot in a darker contrast to exhibit a moody atmosphere. The transfer is sharp and clean; but the colors are a bit dull in some scenes. 5.1 Dolby Digital Korean track is very loud and clear with excellent English Subtitles.