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[HanCinema's Film Review] "Psychokinesis"

2018/02/10 | Permalink

Roo-mi (played by Shim Eun-kyung) is a young woman owns and manages a successful local independent fried chicken restaurant. Roo-mi has had a pretty rough time of life since her father Seok-heon (played by Ryu Seung-ryong) left the family. But it turns out that life can get even worse than that. A massive (and probably crooked) construction project is underway, and when Roo-mi refuses a payout for her property, the gangster capitalists resort to violence in an effort to intimidate Roo-mi as well as her many neighbors in the commercial district to compliance.

There's quite a bit of class conflict in "Psychokinesis" considering the movie is, as the title implies, a superhero movie. But ah, that's really more a limitation of modern filmmakers than it is inherent to the genre. Golden Age Superman, as in, the version from eighty years ago, regularly fought against businessmen who sought to exploit the misery of the lower classes for transparently selfish personal profit. That was back during the Great Depression. Those were different times.

In terms of media representation anyway. Class conflict is still alive and well in the present day, and that's where Seok-heon comes in. Seok-heon is a bank guard who is utterly clueless as to just how ruthless real banks are. So when it becomes clear that his family is in danger, Seok-heon's first instinct is to use his newfound powers within the confines of the system. Seok-heon's ideas are incredibly goofy, and provide most of the levity in the movie's otherwise very dark first act.

But then, finally, Seok-heon realizes that Roo-mi and her neighbors are up against a far serious existential threat than mere poverty. Law and order, that force we are brainwashed into believing looks out for us, is actually far more concerned with the interests of wealthy powerful people. It takes a long time for Seok-heon to figure out just how bad the situation really is- and it is glorious when he finally breaks the chains and heads off on a truly righteous rampage.

Not just metaphorically, but aesthetically too. There's a manic slapstick element to the fights that's highly reminiscent of modern kung fu spoofs. People don't really try to fight Seok-heon so much as they just stare bewildered at the giant clumsy mess created every time he uses his powers. The reactions to Seok-hoon from various extras are always great, since it never takes long for him to impress on other people that he is both dangerous, and also has excellent comedic timing.

Genre awareness is present elsewhere too. There's a great moment where an antagonist gives a little speech explaining what superheroes are supposed to be- an explicit acknowledgment of the justness of the ruling order. The villain reacts with scorn, in that context, to the notion that someone with amazing powers would dare use them against the rightful protectors of society. Far from being the übermensch whose example is meant to inspire the little people, Seok-hoon is the implicit threat meant to intimidate the big ones. Good. Let them pick on someone their own size.

Review by William Schwartz

"Psychokinesis" is directed by Yeon Sang-ho, and features Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Park Jung-min, Kim Min-jae and Jung Yu-mi.

 

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