One could easily say that "Moby Dick" is another entry in the crime thriller genre that, in Hollywood style, uses the connection of the authorities with the capital to introduce a case of conspiracy that reaches the higher echelons of S. Korea, and he would not be very far from the truth. However, a few elements in the film make it stand out from the majority of similar productions.
Lee Bang-woo is a guerilla reporter for a newspaper, who is always in the search for the next big scoop, and is not afraid to use questionable tactics to receive his information. When a mysterious explosion destroys the fictional Balam Bridge on the outskirts of Seoul, Lee does not waste any time getting on the case. A little bit later, he gets a visit from his old friend Yoon-hyuk (Jin Goo), who offers some highly classified information on the case - that the explosion was no accident and that the government caused it. As a newcomer in the newspaper, Son Jin-gi, also investigates the same case, Director Jo assigns them both to it, along with Seong Hyo-gwan, a young journalist who knows much more about computers than her two colleagues. Soon though, the three of them finds themselves in the midst of a conspiracy that threatens their lives and can destroy the nation as Yoon-hyuk is revealed to have a completely different role than he implied.
Park In-je in his feature debut directs a film that moves very close to the Hollywood conspiracy/action flicks, as it features most of its American counterpart's elements. A conspiracy that involves people that are hidden but actually rule the world from the shadows; heroic characters who have no regard for their lives in their pursuit of justice and truth; action including some violent scenes and some spectacular explosions; an impressive cast including a gorgeous woman; a bit of humor and some melodrama, which is a prerequisite for any commercial film in S. Korea. All of the above are depicted through Kim Sun-min's fast, to the point of abrupt, editing, which makes the movie flow smoothly, without lingering at anything in particular. Add to that Kim Dong-young-I's cinematography, which again, aims at impression with a number of grand shots, particularly during the action scenes.
However, the element that makes the film differ is its approach towards the press and particularly reporting. Most of the S. Korean productions of the category make a point of stressing the role the press plays in these conspiracies, in contrast to "Moby Dick", which actually presents the reporters as heroic, doing their best to inform the public, not to mention very good people. The part Director Jo plays in this concept stresses the aforementioned, with the newspapers being presented as the last line of defense against corruption.
I felt that the film could benefit much if Park had stressed this aspect even more, but instead he was carried away with the story, with the script occasionally appearing naive, in an effort to impress the viewer, while it also leaves a number of loose ends during its ending.
Hwang Jung-min anchors the film as Lee Bang-woo, giving a nice performance as Lee Bang-woo, in a style much similar to Song Kang-ho in the way he mixes seriousness with a very entertaining aloofness. Kim Sang-ho as Son Jin-gi is the source of both comedy and melodrama, while Kim Min-hee as Seong Hyo-gwan has a smaller part, which allows her, though, to show some glimpses of her then rising talent along with her undeniable beauty, although Park refrained from drawing too much from the last aspect.
"Moby Dick" could have been a much better film if its direction was more competent, but instead remains a flick that you can watch, pass your time pleasantly, and then forget about it completely.
Review by Panos Kotzathanasis
Available on DVD from YESASIA
DVD MY (En Sub)
DVD 2-Disc (First Press Limited Edition) (En Sub)
Panos Kotzathanasis is a film critic and reviewer specialising in East Asian Cinema. He is the founder of Asian Film Vault, administrator of Asian Movie Pulse and also writes for Taste of Cinema, Eastern Kicks, China Policy Institute and Filmboy. You can follow him on Twitter and Facebook. Panos Kotzathanasis can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[Guest Film Review] "Moby Dick""
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