Bullying is a social problem found a lot in Korean works. It is a dire topic in society in general, but especially in countries where pressure for progress and excellence over peers is high. Despite the potential to explore it, "Days of Wrath" is more of a suspense-fueled revenge story than a work about bullying.
Joon-seok (Joo Sang-wook) lives with the trauma of being a victim of bullying in school. Now, 15 years later, he meets his bully Chang-sik (Yang Dong-geun) again. Joon-seok hopes to be recognized and have his pain acknowledged, but is instead met with contempt and neglect by Chang-sik, who does not even remember him at first. This escalates badly, until Joon-seok decides to stalk Chang-sik and pay him back for his pain.
Plenty of works about bullying focus on the victim and their pain. The film does that to a degree, but it also shines light on the other end of this abuse, the abuser. Despite Chang-sik being a rich, powerful man and therefore less representative of typical bullies, his deep insecurities, abusive nature and self-destructive complexes are used by the story well. By showing his pathetic nature, the writing adds another layer into the victim's struggles as well as reasons for going deeper into his revenge.
The film is appropriately dark in tone and the suspense of it is solid. Joo Sang-wook and Yang Dong-geun also do well with what is given and Joon-seok is an interesting character. His moral choices and how far he is willing to go for revenge make his conflict and journey compelling, since the will he or won't he element of him sacrificing his own goodness for revenge is present throughout. This moral grey area and danger of becoming someone as bad as his bully makes Joon-seok's story engaging.
However, as the film is more of a thriller than a drama, it does not go deep enough into its characters or the topic of bullying and this is a bit disappointing, since the premise is worth exploring. The characters and actors also do not have enough chemistry to make their personal contact as involving as it could have been and while each character has a woman in their lives being caught in the crossfire, those are merely damsels in distress and not used as well as they could have been.
Another minor issue is that Chang-sik's pride makes him too easy a target and therefore Joon-seok's successes kind of feel contrived, because they could easily be countered successfully at times. However, the movie often makes a point about how Chang-sik is ruining his own chances by being so sure of himself. Even so, the plot could have been much more interesting and conflict more intense and with more interactions.
"Days of Wrath" chooses to be a basic suspense film and carried by its two competent leads, it does an acceptable job at it. While not really memorable and without exploring its theme as well as many other works do, it's an entertaining film that can keep viewers invested in the clashing of the two characters engaged.
Written by: Orion from 'Orion's Ramblings'
Available on DVD from YESASIA
Vasia, also known as Orion or Ori online, is currently doing daily opinion pieces and weekly drama news roundups. She has a love for good TV and a penchant for rambling in written form. Vasia can be contacted via firstname.lastname@example.org.
"[HanCinema's Film Review] "Days of Wrath""
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