South Korea has made a name for itself in the crime thriller genre after "Memories of Murder". Now, director Shin-yeon Kim (A Bloody Aria) brings us a crime thriller that definitely looks like a Hollywood-inspired feature with its style and with the way it is shot. SEVEN DAYS (2007, originally tilted "Thursday's Child") stars very popular Korean actress Yoon-Jin Kim (the U.S. TV series LOST, Shiri) with a very talented supporting cast. This film was a blockbuster hit in its native land, and has its share of effective twists and thrills. Hollywood had already bought the rights for its remake to U.S. shores.
Ji-Yeon (Yoon-Jin Kim) is a hotshot defense attorney and a single mother to a 7-year old daughter. One day, while competing in a school event of a 100 m relay, her child goes missing. She receives an anonymous phone call that made it very clear that her child has been kidnapped and rather than ask for a ransom, the kidnapper has a very odd request. To see her daughter returned, Ji-Yeon has to prove the innocence of a convicted murderer on his second trial. With only seven days to put together an effective defense, aided by a cop (Park Hee-Soon) the intelligent attorney tries to convince herself that Jang Chul Jin (Choi Myeong-Su) is innocent; but little does she know that there is more to everything than meets the eye.
Director Shin-Yeon Kim used multiple cameras to accomplish the angles that he had incorporated into the film in the first half. The result is a lot of quick flashes and cuts that are very reminiscent of a Michael Bay film, truly fast-paced with the Hollywood feel, which may either impress or turn off some viewers. Thankfully, the film's premise is somewhat smart and satisfying enough to make me ignore the somewhat shaky camera style in the first half. A mother's love and a crime for a crime is the film's main theme; and fortunately, the director focused his sights mainly on the dramatic emotions being felt by Ji-Yeon and the victim's mother, Han Suk-Hie played by veteran actress Kim Mi-Suk. The two women are the main strengths of this thriller; both have given impressive performances and credible portrayals of their characters.
Now, the film does somewhat falter in the courtroom sequences, for a case spearheaded by a tough prosecutor and a hotshot defense lawyer, the proceedings seemed somewhat simple. The courtroom drama lacked intense and gripping dialogue that it felt a bit rushed. However, as I've said before, this film is not about the drama of the trial but rather to question the morality of attorneys and the abuses of power of political figures. The flashbacks of the actual murder are also quite violent and bloody, with graphic pictures of the victim nude and bloody almost beyond recognition. It is not a whodunit kind of film, it points out exactly who the killer is, the question it asks is; should a lawyer work to defend a guilty suspect? What if the price of failure is her daughter's life? Just what is the true motivation behind the kidnapping?
The killer is truly unlikeable and truly does bring the viewer to question Ji-Yeon's motivations. To its credit, the film does have a cleverly placed twist on the kidnapper's identity, it may require a small suspension of disbelief, but it is a well-calculated emotional motive. Plus, the usual political ramifications come into play for lovely Ji-Yeon. There are quite a lot of characters in this film, and almost all of them have a credible link to the victim and to the murderer. Jeong Dong Hwan makes a limited but effective portrayal that adds more to the film's mystery and the cop on the edge Kim Sung Yeol (Park Hee-Soon) adds some cleverly placed bits of black humor.
Despite its occasional plot holes and some jumbled pieces which seemed a little too mechanical, the film had a dangerously strong potential to be too melodramatic and far-fetched on some scenes; the performances by the leads does effectively add a lot of credibility to the film's main premise. The effective twists and surprises in the last act may seem too much but if you carefully consider what has been said and done, the film definitely manages to fit everything together. The motivations behind the kidnapping and Ji-Yeon's actions does bring a clever if calculated risk on the part of the filmmakers. It doesn't point an accusing finger at lawyer's moral values but focuses instead on the consequences of one's actions and reactions. One would be hard-pressed to underestimate a mother's love after watching this film.
Recommended! [3 ½ Out of 5 Stars]
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