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Deliver Us From Evil – movie review

Not to be confused with the so-so 2014 supernatural themed thriller starring Eric Bana, Deliver Us From Evil is a frenetic and violent hard-boiled action thriller from Korean director Won-Chang Hong (who wrote films like The Yellow Sea). It delivers plenty of action and will delight fans of this genre.

Korean action cinema seems to have a more violent, kinetic and fast paced and energetic approach to its key set pieces than Hollywood, where filmmakers usually on rapid editing to bring intensity to their action sequences. A case in point is Deliver Us From Evil which certainly serves up some original action sequences even if its central plot seems a bit derivative.

It begins with that hoary old cliché of one last job, that somehow comes back to bite. Lethally efficient assassin In-Nam (Jung-Min Hwang) wants to leave that world behind and retire to a nice beach somewhere. But it is hard to leave this world behind especially when he finds himself drawn into a mission to rescue a kidnapped young girl, who just may be his daughter. His former girlfriend has been brutally murdered and the girl has been kidnapped by a ruthless Thai gang who harvest the body organs of young children for profit and medical transplants.

But In-Nam is also being hunted by the flamboyant but ruthless yakuza killer known as Ray the Butcher (Jung-Jae Lee), the brother of his last victim. Ray’s signature method of killing is hanging his victims upside down and disembowelling them. Their cat and mouse game leads to several violent confrontations and delivers a high body count that will satisfy fans of this sort of thing.

In Bangkok In-Nam also manages to enlist some reluctant help from Yui (Jeong-Min Park), a transgender nightclub cabaret entertainer with a cheeky personality who desperately wants finance to help complete her/his sex change surgery. She acts as a translator and helps him navigate this unfamiliar world. She is something of a unique character for this genre and also one of the more memorable.

The plot and visual aesthetic seem to be influenced by the classic Taxi Driver; the little-seen 1999 French thriller The Lost Son, starring Daniel Auteuil as a jaded private investigator on the trail of a child sex slavery ring; and the 2010 Korean action thriller The Man From Nowhere which shares a few similar plot elements.

Deliver Us From Evil makes the most of some exotic locations ranging from Japan to Korea and Bangkok. It has been crisply shot by cinematographer Kyeong-Pyo Hong (Snowpiercer), and the frenetic pace here marks a change of pace for him following his Oscar nomination for Parasite. He often uses long takes to capture the fluid flow of the action. The seedy and crowded Thai locations are vividly brought to life. The spectacular action includes plenty of fist fights, shootouts, a rooftop chase, and car chases, all carefully choreographed and staged by stunt coordinator Geon-Moon Lee. And apparently the actors performed their own stunts, bringing a level of realism to these sequences.

Production designers Hwa-Sung Cho and Hyun-So Seong have created the claustrophobic and seedy hallways and rooms of the rundown hotel building where the kidnapped children are confined, and an industrial area for the climactic final confrontation between the two protagonists.

Hwang and Lee previously appeared together in the 2013 action thriller A New World and here they effortless craft the different personalities and styles. Hwang has a restrained and quiet almost humourless demeanour until he cuts loose and proves to be quite capable – and lethal. As the sadistic Ray, Lee is scarily menacing with his tattoos, bright costumes and soft-spoken approach. Park does a good job of capturing Yui’s loneliness and sense of confusion about her own sexual identity, and delivers a nicely rounded complex performance, and brings a welcome touch of humour which tempers the darker edges of the film.

Greg King

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