Director: Im Sang-yoon
Starring: So Ji-sub, Lee Mi-yeon, Kwak Do-won, Kim Dong-jun
Like many company employees, Ji (So Ji-sub) is a soft spoken man who speaks little but gets his work done quickly and efficiently. He has a pain in the ass boss that has no idea what type of things he has to deal with and he’s more than a little lonely. While this sounds like pretty any other company or workplace scenario, Ji’s workplace is a little different in that they deal with death, and Ji is one of “The Company’s” top contract killers. When the job becomes too much for Ji’s conscience and he looks for a way to quit, he finds himself and what little happiness he has squarely in the sights of his former co-workers.
A debut effort from director Lim Sang-yoon, A Company Man is a film that seems to have a bit of an identity crisis. While the film is, for the most part serious, there are moments throughout the first two acts that change the tone of the film from the action film I was expecting to a more laid back character study of Ji. It never gets goofy, thank god, like many Korean films are apt to do, but it is a distinct departure from the tone set by trailers and the promotional campaign. While a little distracting, it straightens itself out to provide an explosive finish that should satisfy action fans quite well.
In the beginning, we as the audience, get only a small inkling of the skill of Ji. He’s respected by his peers and when we see the few scuffles he gets into we get a mere tease of what he is capable. When the film heads into its final act however, is where the man lets loose his inner beast and it starts to tread in full on Falling Down/office-freakout territory. In one of the best gunfights in recent memory, we get an amazingly entertaining and tightly shot sequence that immediately brought to mind the epic Shiri. Not one to shirk on hand to hand, the film also provides numerous fight scenes that showcase some brutal techniques and the modern style of military fighting and CQC in cinema. It’s a great finale that is wholly exhilarating and full of ‘wow’ factor.
The dramatic elements suffer a bit with the aforementioned identity crisis the film has with character development. It isn’t terrible, but I would have much preferred a more serious tone to go with the hardcore action. It’s a bit of a miscalculation on the filmmakers’ part, but not a deal breaker by any means. We get some solid music, it is becomes clear in the course of the film why, and it succeeds admirably in this respect. Cleanly shot and well directed, this is a solid debut production.
In the end, A Company Man features some stellar and terrific action scenes sandwiched in between drama that only moderately does its job. While not a terribly acted film, the strength is in the action and that is where it should have been focused. A decent effort for Lim, I look forward to seeing what he has next in store.
You may enjoy this film if you liked: The Man From Nowhere, The Bourne Identity, and/or Falling Down
Special Thanks to Well Go for providing a viewing copy!