Monday, June 4, 2018

From South Korean, Noh Dong-seok's GOLDEN SLUMBER is a fun conspiracy/chase thriller that boasts a delightful lead performance

Several smart things distinguish the new South Korean action movie GOLDEN SLUMBER, the first of which is the fact that the film's success rests upon its unusual idea of friendship and kindness as the twin columns that hold firm its fast-paced plot via the character of its hero, a sweet young delivery man suddenly enmeshed in a political conspiracy that goes right to the top of the government. Friendship and kindness in a conspiracy thriller? Yup. And how bracing, enjoyable and finally even moving this is!

South Korea has come into its own as the purveyor of slick, entertaining and fast-paced action movies -- sometimes transgressively sexual and violent movies, too -- but this may the first I remember that relies on the positive and kindly characteristics of its hero, rather than his fighting skills, to see him through the crises. And as portrayed so beautifully and skillfully by Gang Don-won (shown above and below, and earlier seen in The Secret Reunion), this unusual performance wins us over in a flash and keeps us rooting for our hero throughout.

The film was directed by Noh Dong-seok, (two photos above) who appears to be a first-timer in the "action thriller" realm. If  true, his work here is pretty extraordinary. He is able to give us oodles of necessary exposition in a zippy pre-credit sequence that sets up just about everything that's necessary for us to know, and once this set-up is in place, the movie keeps unfurling at break-neck speed, with much of the dialog, too, full of plot points dished out with brevity and wit. Do pay attention.

Along the way, the movie also deals with some rather profound questions about why the state might choose to use and toss away so blithely, if nastily, a model citizen such as our hero. The reason given here will make you think and then wince.

The arc of the friendship that anchors the movie goes back to a rock band -- named Golden Slumber -- made up of our hero and his friends from a decade past. How and why these friends come back into his life help propel the film and give it some extra surprise and oomph. "Trust no one," one of his old friends tells him near the film's beginning, and while may be words worth honoring, he finds that he must finally trust someone. But who?

One of the major questions/caveats of these conspiracy thrillers always hinges on how one human being can go up against the powers-that-be with any hope of success. That problem is addressed here via an older character (Kim Eui-sung, above), who initially helps our hero out of revenge and avarice but is eventually won over -- as we've been, too -- by the young man's extraordinary decency and commitment.

The movie is evidently a remake of sorts of the 2010 Japanese film of the same name. I have not seen the Japanese version, but if it's any better or more entertaining than this one, that's quite an accomplishment.

From CJ Entertainment, in Korean with English subtitles and running a relatively short (for South Korean films) 108 minutes, the movie -- after opening theatrically earlier this year in a limited engagement -- hits home video via Amazon, iTunes and Google Play tomorrow, June 5 -- for purchase and/or rental.

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