For his latest work, New World director Park Hoon-jung has combined the traits of two of Korea’s most popular genres: the brooding chill of the serial killer hunt and the adrenaline rush of the North Korean action-thriller. The result? V.I.P., a self-serious trudge through a convoluted collection of local and foreign influences that doesn’t offer so much as a twist on the sneers of its exclusively male cast.
TV pretty boy Lee Jong-suk flashes his widest grin as a North Korean defector accused of a series of brutal deaths, but he is protected by his father’s high rank. Kim Myung-min’s crusty detective tries to take him down, Jang Dong-gun’s NIS agent sulkily gets in his way and Park Hee-soon’s salty North Korean officer turns rogue and heads south of the border. Miserable men from other agencies circle around as well.
Park sticks to well-worn formulas as he combines genres together, but what he winds up with are three glum men with only slightly different jobs who end up doing the same thing as they all go against their superiors in pursuit of their moral code. A stronger brush is used to paint the killer’s sadism, but this is done so at the horrific expense of women, who in V.I.P.’s world exist solely to be desecrated.
These turn-offs aside, the film is a serviceable if uninvolving thriller with a smattering of polished action. It may be called V.I.P., but it’s the least important local offering of the season.