Judged on its technical aspects, South Korean film “The Target” is not a bad action thriller film, but I could not concentrate well on it although the movie was not as tedious as I worried. It is a competent remake, and it runs fairly well toward the expected finale, but it is less speedy and less efficient compared to “Point Blank”(2010), the original French film it is based on. While I appreciate that it tries different things while being faithful to the original version, not many of them work well unfortunately, and the movie accordingly begins to lose its steam even before arriving at its climax.
When an injured guy is brought to the hospital at one night, young doctor Tae-joon(Lee Jin-wook) senses that there is something suspicious about his new patient. There is a gun wound on his unconscious body, and then he happens to witness an attempt to kill his patient. Although he does not see a perpetrator well at that point, he manages to save his patient’s life right after that, and then he happily returns to his home when his shift is over.
In the next morning, somebody breaks into their home when he and his loving wife Hee-joo(Jo Yeo-Jeong), a psychiatrist currently taking maternity leave, are about to have a nice breakfast together. The intruder knocks out Tae-joon on the head and kidnaps Hee-joo, and Tae-joon finds himself in a very serious situation when he wakes up later. The intruder is holding his wife as a hostage somewhere, and he demands to Tae-joo that he should get his patient out of the hospital as soon as possible.
Driven by panic, Tae-joo decides that he must do anything to save his wife, but his situation keeps getting more complicated. While the police are already paying attention to his patient because of a murder case which happened nearby during that night, his patient is not very cooperative to say the least, and there are also some guys chasing after his patient.
Meanwhile, we get to know more about that murder case and its prime suspect as the police investigation is being continued. As many of you have already guessed, Tae-joon’s patient is framed for that murder, and it turns out that he is someone you cannot possibly mess with. Yeo-hoon(Ryoo Seung-ryong) is a former marine and mercenary who worked for many years outside South Korea before he recently returned to the country, so I guess there is nothing surprising about his ability to run and fight as well as Liam Neeson even when he has just gotten up from his hospital bed.
Around that point, the movie begins to lose its balance in characterization, and it never recovers from that. Lee Jin-wook tried as much as he could with his thankless role, but his character does not have many things to do except running along with his patient, and he is frequently upstaged by his co-actors in the film. Although Tae-joon does come across a couple of perilous moments in the movie, but he is more like a bystander in many cases, and I am reminded of how his counterpart played by Gilles Lellouche in “Point Blank” was far more active in comparison. I still remember one particular moment in which Lellouche’s character did something I hope I will never have to do for the rest of my life, and, to my big disappointment, the remake version does not have any single moment equivalent to that.
The movie puts more dramatic weight to Yeo-hoon instead, and we even get a sentimental flashback scene for him. Ryoo Seung-ryong, who has been one of the leading South Korean actors since his breakout performances in “The Front Line”(2011) and “War of the Arrows”(2011), imbues his character with formidable presence, and his steely performance is one of the main reasons why the movie works well sometimes. While other characters are frantically moving inside the hospital during one chase sequence, Yeo-hoon patiently makes his moves as watching out for any possible danger, and we can see through his smart maneuver that Yeo-hoon will be one or two steps ahead of others as long as he can endure.
With Ryoo’s forceful acting and its nice action scenes, the movie injects considerable amount of intensity into the plot, but that does not hide its number of glaring weaknesses. While Kim Seong-ryeong and Jo Eun-ji are feisty as two tough female cops chasing after their prime suspect, Yoo Joon-sang feels like overacting at time as another crucial police character, and Jin Goo is not very believable as a mentally unstable supporting character. I witnessed several audiences giggling when his character went through his another fit during one scene, and I must confess that he somehow looked like having hiccups to me.
As expected, the climactic action sequence of the film is decorated with lots of bangs to excite audiences, but it feels dragged in the end, and it only magnifies the implausible aspects of the plot. It is rather hard to believe that a certain building in the movie can be so easily emptied like that before the showdown to be unfolded, and I personally think there is a far less damaging(and far more effective) way for its main characters to outwit their opponents – but then the movie would end too soon without much noise if it headed toward that direction.
“Point Blank” was a run-of-the-mill action thriller film to be watched and then forgotten, but the people behind it handled its story and action with commendable efficiency, and I still could enjoy it when I revisited the film before watching the remake version. “The Target” has a few good things including Ryoo Seung-ryong’s strong performance, and I was not that bored during the screening at last night, but the movie is weaker than the original version mainly due to its unbalanced characterization and other flaws in the adapted screenplay. The movie is not a total failure, but I cannot think of any reason to recommend it to you for now considering that there is a little better version.