After his father, a North Korean agent, is branded a traitor and killed while in South Korea, Li Myung-hyun (Choi Seung-hyun) agrees to become an operative to keep him and his sister (Kim Yoo-jung) out of conscripted labor camps. After receiving elite training, he enters the South posing as a high school student, trusting his youthful looks to provide adequate cover. While attending class he meets fellow student Lee Hye-in (Han Ye-ri), a bullied girl who finds herself drawn to his seriousness and quiet demeanor. As he carries out his mission, to find a competing agency’s assassin striking his unit, he must navigate their retaliatory efforts and the dogged pursuit of an intelligence officer (Yoon Je-moon).
Featuring Big Bang member Choi Seung-hyun, also known as T.O.P., in his first lead role, the film looks to turn his superstar status into box office receipts. Set during the last days of North Korean leader Kim Jong-il’s last days, the film touches upon the conflicting factions of the eminent change of leader and the lives of young Koreans who are generationally separated from the defining conflicts between the North and South.
Choi himself plays his role as excessively brooding and with a quiet strength that I’m sure made the Big Bang fans, primarily women, scream out in joy but his flat portrayal gives his Li little in the way of character. It’s an admirable attempt but his inexperience and tentativeness is far to evident to carry the film. His action scenes however are excellent with the hand to hand elements and gunplay sequences being among the better in modern Korean action films. Fairing much better is Han Ye-ri as Choi’s classmate; she’s tormented, sympathetic, and carries with her a surprising grace for someone her age.
The film will look familiar to those who have experience with modern action films, particularly the Bourne films. Numerous hand held shots and tracking elements are used in the action scenes but thankfully it is forsaken in favor of traditional steady cam for the dramatic story and plot elements. Music is generally average but it does advance the.film and nothing is strikingly out of place. Sound design is actually quite good; the blister of bullets and the crunch of bones in the fights sounding crisp and involving.
A better than average star vehicle that features some great action but loses it with the less than practiced performance of the lead. While I wouldn’t write him off in later films, Commitment’ s strength are in his action scenes and that of the very good supporting cast. I wouldn’t consider the film must see per se, but it is an investing action drama. It could do with some serious editing however, to the tune of as much as 30 minutes, the quiet moments and unnecessary minor characters taking way too much away from the main plot and characters.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: Company Man, Man from Nowhere, and/or The Berlin File
Special thanks to Well Go USA for providing a viewing copy!