IMDb > Tamjung Hong Gil-dong: Sarajin Ma-eul (2016) > Reviews & Ratings - IMDb
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3 out of 4 people found the following review useful:

Intoxicating mix of styles and genres

8/10
Author: aartm-46223 from Australia
19 May 2016

A lone detective who works for a secret agency, solving cases in quick, ruthless fashion. But this detective is also on a quest to exact revenge on the man who violently ruined his family's life 20 years ago. The journey will inevitably take some unexpected turns. This is a film that may divide audiences, due to its off-kilter approach to a number of different genres, time periods and visual styles, using the framework of a hard- boiled detective story to metaphorically glance at various hardships Korea has endured over the past 100 years. It takes a little while for the film's rhythm to take hold, but once it does and you completely click into its particular point-of-view, it becomes more entertaining as it goes on. Writer/director Jo Sung-hee, who impressed with the minimalist, post-apocalyptic END OF ANIMAL and the romance/drama/fantasy A WEREWOLF BOY, again moves down a different path, with a film that is heavily influenced by comic books and pulp crime novels. His smart blend of camera technique, lighting schemes, CGI animation, and set design makes this a feast for the eyes, and if it is screening at a cinema nearby, then I highly recommend that you go and experience it on the big screen.

Lee Je-hoon, who caught people's attention with his performances in the first-rate but appropriately titled BLEAK NIGHT and the acclaimed Korean War drama THE FRONT LINE, is very good as detective Gil-dong, and the relationship that develops between he and the two girls is genuinely affecting. However, he doesn't quite command the screen in the way needed to make a film like this truly soar (say like Park Hae-il), but on the strength of his work here, you know that day is not far away. Kim Seong-gyoon proves intimidating as the brutal Kang Sung-il, but the film is stolen by young actors Kim Ha-na (as Mal-soon) and No Jeong-ee (as Dong-yi), who are utterly charming as Gil-dong's hindrance-come-helpers. The director gets remarkably natural and confident performances from the two youngsters, thankfully free of cloyingly sweet mannerisms and cheap sentimentality.

The less you know about the plot details the better, as Jo Sung-hee's final vision may be somewhat contrary to what you might be expecting. But it's a surprise that definitely leaves a smile on your face when the end credits begin to roll, and has you already looking forward to what this talented film-maker will do next.

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2 out of 3 people found the following review useful:

Action-Packed, But Tender Too

9/10
Author: Alison from Montreal, Quebec, Canada
23 July 2016

Hong Gil-dong (Lee Je-hoon) is a detective with a mission: to find the man who murdered his mother in front of his childhood self and avenge her death. For years, he has worked as a detective in the large organization headed by the sister of the wealthy family that adopted him, learning the skills he needs to track this killer down. When he finally has his target in sight, however, members of a mysterious gang kidnap the man, leaving his two young granddaughters distraught and not sure where to turn. Hong tells the girls that he can find their relative, but he needs them to come with him on the journey, and so the three set off together. The girls hope Hong will save their grandfather, but they don't know the reason he's hunting him…. That's a very brief description of the set-up of this extremely convoluted story; there are more twists and turns here than I've seen in a film in a very long time! Nobody is who they seem to be and nobody's motives are what they appear. Well, except maybe for the two girls - I wish I knew the names of the child actors, who are excellent (particularly the 8-year-old, perpetually snot-faced, younger kid). There's an awful lot to like in this movie, both because of its hard-boiled aspect, its tender one and its sheer over-the-top action. One thing I'm not sure of is its time frame; there are references (visual and otherwise) to the 1980s, but the clothing and cars, among other indications, seem to hark back to the 1930s. If that anachronistic visualization doesn't derail you, however, you're in for a heck of a packed, exciting and ultimately satisfying two hours!

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