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'Seven Days': Fast and Furious

2008/10/01 | 1035 views |  | Permalink | Source

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A slick, Hollywood-style thriller will satisfy Kim Yoon-jin fans

Kyu Hyun Kim (qhyunkim)

A hotshot defense lawyer Yu Ji-yeon (Kim Yoon-jin, TV's "Lost") learns to her horror that someone has kidnapped her daughter. Instead of a ransom, the kidnapper demands that Ji-yeon defend a vicious rapist-murderer to an acquittal at an upcoming trial. She has only seven days to locate her daughter, or, conversely, prove that the prosecuted murderer is innocent.

The only help around is her thuggish cop friend (Park Hee-soon, "Boss X File", "Antarctic Journal"), while a corrupt prosecuting attorney (Jeong Dong-hwan) and the victim's headstrong mother (Kim Mi-Sook, "Marathon") stand in her way.

"Seven Days" turned out to be the biggest box office draw in the fourth quarter of 2007 in Korea, enthusiastically embraced by the moviegoers, even though critical reaction was more ambivalent. The film's MTV-on-speed editing style and narrative rhythm received some criticism, but I don't feel like slamming "Seven Days" just because it allegedly emulates Hollywood blockbusters or American TV dramas ("mi-deu", as colloquially known in Korea).

Should the director Won Sin-yeon ("The Wig" - "Scary Hair", "A Bloody Aria") have followed the examples of, say, Oliver Assayas and made something like "Boarding Gate" or "Demonlover" instead? Perish the thought. Besides, "Seven Days" is genuinely well put-together: its technical proficiency is never in doubt, right down to the strikingly realistic makeup effects on the victim's dead body. It certainly is director Won's best film so far.

Unfortunately, the movie is riddled with illogical plot points, a few of which threaten to negate the entire premise. For one, given the "loophole" in the Korean legal system revealed in the climax, there was no real reason to kidnap Ji-yeon's daughter, since he/she had the key evidence allowing Ji-yeon to activate that loophole in his/her possession all along.

And of course, the culprit's motivation for putting Ji-yeon through that much ordeal is, charitably put, crazy. Oh, I forgot, the culprit IS insane. "Seven Days" also flirts with criticism of the legal system, but wisely decides to let it peter out: it certainly doesn't slide into a bizarre "left-wing" vigilante fantasy like "Princess Aurora".

Besides, if there ever was a God-given antidote to the macho Korean directors with pretensions to being left-wing social critics, it's Kim Yoon-jin. Even though Ji-yeon's character arc is written, by director Won and the scribe Yun Je-goo, in such a way to illustrate her "re-discovery" of "motherhood" over the course of the film, Kim, through her radiant charisma and super-charged but finely tuned acting, blows all this ideological claptrap into smithereens.

She establishes Ji-yeon from the get-go as a warm, caring but sensible professional woman. Kim carries the film on her shoulders like a female Atlas and makes sure that it appears a lot better than it actually is. (I do think it is about time, though, that she demands something other than these I-am-so-sorry-I-was-less-than-good-mother roles from Korean producers) In this she is ably assisted by an excellent supporting cast, including Kim Mi-Sook, Park Hee-soon, Choi Myeong-su (memorable in "Les Formidables"), as the equal-parts pathetic and disgusting murder suspect, and Oh Kwang-rok ("Do you like Spring Bear ??"), as Ji-yeon's humorously genteel gangster client.

"Seven Days" is a slick and calculated thriller, all right, so those constitutionally unable to like this kind of movies need not bother. It's really not as clever or poignant as its makers probably think it is, but it may make a surprisingly strong impression for casual fans of Korean cinema, and is, needless to say, a must for Kim Yoon-jin fans.

☆☆☆★
2008 OhmyNews

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