Deliver Us From Evil (2019) ☆☆(2/4): Deliver Me From Mediocrity

South Korean film “Deliver Us From Evil” brings almost nothing to its genre territory without enough sense of fun or entertainment. Despite lots of efforts put into the screen, the overall result is so flat and pedestrian that I quickly got bored without much care or attention during its first half hour, and I was also offended by several tasteless elements later in the film.

The movie opens with a time-honored genre cliché for its tough guy hero played by Hwang Jung-min, who merely looks dour or sour throughout the film because, well, that is what tough guys in South Korean movies are expected to look like. Several years ago, In-nam was a secret agent working for the national security agency, but then he had to leave South Korea when he was ordered to be eliminated along with his covert unit, and he has worked as a professional killer since he escaped to Japan. When he is eventually about to consider retirement as getting sick of his dirty business, there comes one big request from his main handler, and the handler promises to In-nam that this will be his last job, but, needless to say, it turns out to be quite more problematic than expected.

Meanwhile, we are also introduced to a woman named Yeong-joo (Choi Hee-seo), who has lived along with her little daughter in Bangkok. Before going to a very important business meeting of hers, she takes her daughter to a local international school, and she tells her daughter that a babysitter will later come instead of her, but we instantly sense a trouble on the horizon right from when Yeong-joo has a little tender meaningful moment with her daughter before leaving for her impending business meeting.

Of course, her daughter is vanished along with that babysitter in question, and Yeong-joo is understandably thrown into panic while fearing for the worst, but it looks like there is no one to help her in this increasingly despairing situation. The local police are not particularly interested because there is no demand for ransom yet, so Yeong-joo desperately tries to seek help from someone in her past, and that person in question is none other than In-nam.

When he hears that Yeong-joo is looking for him, In-nam is not so willing to talk to her, mainly because of how their relationship came to the end in a very unpleasant way. A few days later, he is notified that Yeong-joo’s dead body was discovered and then sent from Bangkok to South Korea, and that is when he belatedly comes to learn about her daughter, who is apparently his biological daughter and still missing at present.

Understandably ridden with the guilt on Yeong-joo and his daughter, In-nam soon goes to Bangkok for finding his daughter before it is too late. It turns out that she was kidnapped by a big and powerful local criminal organization which has done an atrocious human trafficking business in addition to drug business, and we accordingly get a disturbing moment which shows her being incarcerated with other poor kidnapped kids for an unspeakable purpose.

In the meantime, someone else is looking for In-nam. The man he killed for his supposedly last job, who was incidentally a powerful yakuza figure, has an estranged brother known well for his sheer brutality and ruthlessness, and that brother is already determined to track down and then kill not only In-nam but also anyone associated with In-nam. It does not take much time for him to learn of In-nam’s whereabouts, and these two lethal dudes’ inevitable clash in Bangkok results in lots of headaches for not only the aforementioned criminal organization but also the local police.

Although it throws lots of physical actions into the screen as required during its second half, the movie fails to engage us due to the apparent lack of personality. The action scenes in the film are well-made on the surface, but they are somehow devoid of style and energy on the whole, and we are simply served with lots of bangs and crashes without much dramatic impact.

Moreover, the characters in the film are more or less than cardboard figures we do not care much about. While In-nam and his main opponent are nothing more than gloomy male killing machines, a few female characters in the film are merely plot elements without much humanity, and you may be also quite uncomfortable with a number of very unpleasant moments involved with Yeong-joo’s little daughter. At one point later in the film, this poor girl is locked inside a suitcase while lots of actions happen around her, and this tasteless moment summarizes well how often the movie objectifies her throughout the story.

Hwang valiantly tries to carry the film as much as he can, but I must point out that he played more interesting tough guy characters before. On the opposite, Lee Jung-jae surely looks as scary and intense as demanded by his psychopathic role, but that is all he can do here. In case of Choi Hee-seo, who was incidentally quite wonderful in “Our Body” (2018), she is thoroughly wasted without generating any significant emotion between her and Hwang, and Park Jung-min is unfortunately stuck with a thankless job of playing a broad stereotype role, which reminds me again of how South Korean films have often been insensitive in the portrayal of sexual minority characters.

On the whole, “Deliver Us From Evil” is two or three steps down from director Hong Won-chan’s previous film “Office” (2014), a small but effective horror thriller film which was incidentally one of the better South Korean films of 2015 in my trivial opinion. While that film engaged and entertained me more than I expected, “Deliver Us From Evil” only left me with hollow impressions, and I really think you should watch “Office” instead of watching this joyless piece of work.

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