Friday, November 29, 2013

Need your monthly Korean movie fix? Try A COMPANY MAN, dark satire from Lim Sang-yoon

Just recently added to Netflix streaming, this 2012 film from South Korea comes from first-time filmmaker Lim Sang-yoon (shown below) and is a surprisingly deft combination of action and satire. Beginning with a pleasant conversation between a novice and his mentor, the scene morphs into a terrific bit of action film-making that should quickly take your breath away. Further, the action ends with a shock that will set you back a notch or two. What's going on and who are these people?

We're at the end times of Capitalism, as a matter of fact, in which the company that A COMPANY MAN works for specializes in assassinations-to-order. When it occasionally calls in "freelancers" or new-comers on a job, those newbies, as we see, are every bit as expendable as the victims themselves. It's just "business," folk! When our non-hero, smartly and sexily played by the rangy So Je-seob (below), begins to have some qualms about his actions and work load, he softens a bit, and before you can say "Maybe I'm not the best assassin...", sure enough, he's taken to helping people -- in particular the family of the young kid we see working with him at the film's opening.

Oddly, A Company Man does not have a whole lot of "plot" per se. it is more a set of action pieces, fueled by both the assassinations themselves and the gnawing sense our hero begins to perceive of something being hugely amiss.

Otherwise, we just get to know that family (above) and their history and needs. Our guy's co-workers (one of whom is below) barely have characters. But since they seem to feel that all their targets are readily expendable, it's no loss they they, too, turn out to be every bit as expendable as their victims.

There are some lovely, touching moments along the way, particular concerning the family mom, below, who used to be a well-known singer. (Fame and what accompanies it are seen as not terribly fulfilling.)

The movie also offers a look at the kind of rampant Capitalism in which souls are indubitably lost and nothing is worthwhile except "capital." While the lengthy but riveting  finale is full of the kind of "vengeance" that makes for box-office business, the film's actual ending is about as dark as you could wish, considering all that has gone before.

Young filmmaker Lim does a fine job of making us watch and even care. His pacing is good (at 96 minutes, this one's considerably shorter than most Korean movies) and his deft juggling of the story's satirical, action and thematic aspects works very well. As usual, when finishing one of the current crop of Korean cinema, I find myself impressed both anew and all over again by Korea's unique cinematic pizzazz.

A Company Man is available now via Netflix streaming, Amazon Instant Video and will eventually, I hope, appear on DVD and Blu-ray.

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