Quick (2011) ☆☆(2/4) : Slow delivery of bombs, actions, and cheap gags

The most interesting part of “Quick”, the latest South Korean action movie, is the behind-the-scene footage shown to us at the end credit. I understood they tried to make good action scenes, I saw how much the stunt men and the other crew members did their jobs, and I learned that a stunt guy was actually injured during the production. At the end of the footage, others visit him while he is recuperating at the hospital, and, in front of the camera, all of them hope that their movie will turn out to be good.

It could be a nice footnote to their work if the movie was as good as, or half as good as, they hoped so, for the end product is surprisingly tepid with little tension despite its thrilling premise. I can accept for a moment that familiar premise which will invite lots of loopholes in the story, but the movie does not seem to care about how to handle it to engage us. Its disjointed narrative drags as the time goes by with shallow characterization and blatant cheap gags, and these unlikable caricatures shout to each other in the movie so frequently that I suspected someone mistook for shouting as the character development – or am I out of touch with the new trend?

6 years after the big traffic accident in the opening scene, Gi-soo, a former leader of motorcycle gang, is now working as a delivery man who rides his motorcycle as fast as before to deliver the packages in a short time. One day, he delivers the small package to an office, and, right after he comes out of the building, the bomb blows up the office to shock him and others on the street outside. Even after such a shocking incident, he seems not so affected by it much – he immediately goes back to his work while ready for the next job. Does he have any idea about what he has possibly done?

Don’t worry – he soon realizes what situation he gets himself into. His next job is taking a female singer of some popular singer group, which turns out be his ex-girlfriend. As soon as Ah-rom(Kang Ye-woo) puts on his helmet for the safety, they find themselves trapped in the plot of some unseen villain, who installs the bomb in his helmet. If she takes off, the bomb will explode. If they try to get help from the others including the police, the bomb will explode. If they are separated from each other more than 10 meters, the bomb will explode. If they fail to do the each of the delivery jobs demanded from the other side of the phone within 30 minutes, the bomb will explode. Oh, by the way, did I tell you about the timer conveniently installed on the visor of helmet to notify the remaining time to them and us?

In such setting, speeding against the time comes with the territory. They speed along the streets and alleys of Seoul to deliver the packages in time while avoiding the subsequent explosions and the police chasing them. There is a cop(played by Ko Chang-seok), and there is a policeman(Kim In-kwon) who is a reformed motorcycle gang; he was Gi-soo’s rival and still carry a torch for Ah-rom. After learning that Gi-soo is somehow connected with the series of bombings that shake the citizens of Seoul, both are determined to arrest them(and both were near the accident in the opening sequence, by the way).

The movie has several action sequences, but the outcome is sort of mixed bag. In some scenes, it more or less spins its wheel without the effects intended. For instance, when Gi-soo and Ah-rom are chased by others along the narrow alleys of Myoung-dong area, the scene is devoid of any clear sense of space or direction while decorated with lots of crashes that keep happening around them. On the other hand, there is a good scene when all of them face a sudden accident on the highway with the propane gas tanks tumbling toward them.

I did not feel them as something real that really happened to them. While watching that footage at the end credit, I was quite surprised to learn that one particular scene involved with one of the bomb explosions was actually shot with the real actors running from the explosion. But, on the screen, with cheap special effects, I did not believe much that they were running from the real danger. They more looked like moving their bodies in front of the green screen.

And the movie loses its urgency frequently; this is like a kiss of death to this type of action thriller. At some point in the story, the plot gets stalled when Gi-soo and Ah-rom are ordered to go to some beach town for the reason I found hard to accept. This is supposed to be an action movie with rapid progression along with time limit – and they are allowed to have ‘romantic interlude’ to re-build their relationship just because the villain does not need them for a while?

By the way, even when they have some break, these characters do not try much to figure why the villain chooses them for the plot even though it is clear to us that their ordeal is sort of punishment to them for the misdemeanor they committed in the past. The mystery surrounding villain in the movie is revealed later unsatisfyingly, and it only reminds us that Gi-soo and Ah-rom really deserve the punishment. I have to point out that they don’t feel guilty about what they did at all even after the villain tells them his motif. This makes them more unlikeable than they initially were; they care more about their trivial personal matters than the enormous damages they caused to the public in the opening scene and the following action scenes. I sometimes wonder whether they are worse than the villain.

Along with them, the characters in the movie are puppets at the whim of the screenwriters who want to jerk out the emotions and laughs from us every time they can – or they can’t. What the performers do on the screen is simple: throughout the story, they a)shout or b) whine or c) become melodramatically hysterical(“I’m going to die!!” – with tears streaming on their faces) or 4) do several silly things for sake of comedy. It is possible to draw any kind of humor from the serious situations with urgency, but the movie is so self-conscious that, when it has to build the tension, it instead reminds us every 5 or 10 minutes that it is doing comedy along with action, and most of its attempts result in misfire or short laughs for a second.

If you know that Yoon Je-kyoon, the director of “Haeundea”(or “Tidal Wave”, 2009), is involved in the production of the movie, you will probably not be surprised by what you get. In fact, three actors from that movie also appear in the movie, and “Quick” tries to entertain us in a pretty much same way that disaster movie did. There is a borrowed formula(its finale reminds me of “Speed”(1994), a far more thrilling movie worthy of repeated viewing), there are cardboard characters, there are actions, there is cheap tear-jerking melodrama with silly comedy, and they are mixed incoherently together. Maybe you will like this kind of jumbled mix more than I do, but let’s admit this: it is not a good delivery service, let alone a quick one. You had better to call other better services like “Speed”.

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