Saturday, December 29, 2018

Kim Byung-Woo's TAKE POINT: action, betrayal and international naughtiness via South Korea

Don't get involved if you want to stay alive -- the moral of this new film would seem to be -- with either mercenaries nor the governments of the USA, China, North Korea or South Korea. That's what happens to the two heroes of TAKE POINT, written and directed by Kim Byung-Woo, an ever-so-lightly-political action/adventure thriller in which betrayal is epidemic.

It doesn't matter whose side you imagine you may be on, you're still as good as dead.

Our heroes here (one of them takes a rather long time revealing himself) are a South Korean mercenary, now-residing in America with his pregnant wife, nicknamed Ahab (played by Ha Jung-woo, above and on poster, top), and a North Korean doctor (played by Lee Sun-kyun, below) whose job is to tend to the well-being of North Korea's premier, known here as "King."

The two men refer to each other as "Northie" and "Southie"(or so the English subtitles would have it) and eventually, if slowly, begin to bond and grow to respect their opponent for very good reasons. Mr. Lee played the lead role in that crackerjack South Korean crime thriller A Hard Day, and he is every bit as good (with much less to do) in this new film. Mr. Ha -- a staple of more first-rate South Korean films than you can shake a stick at -- is hugely impressive all over again. (That's Jennifer Ehle, below, right, who plays Ahab's American operative.)

The movie itself is manufactured to within an inch of its life, and yet it moves fast enough and is so filled with exciting twists and turns that it should more than keep fans of action, assassination, politics, explosions, and mistrust more than satisfied. The plot has to do with the mercenaries' need to kidnap and keep alive the North Korean head-of-state, and much of the action is seen via visual monitors located all over the place (including different countries) that show only one side of the action. Consequently, it is rare for more than than even a few cast members to share the screen in any particular scene.

So much is always happening simultaneously -- our Southie has to save the life of the North Korean President via everything from CPR to a blood transfusion at the same time as he is directing his team of mercenaries how to get out of ever more dangerous situations -- that the viewer barely has a chance to draw a breath. This makes the movie move like gangbusters. On the down side, however, is the heavily accented English spoken by both our heroes, which is difficult enough to understand that you may wish for the English subtitles to translate, not just the Korean dialog, but the English portion, too.

Yes, the movie is in many ways beyond ridiculous, with the events we see requiring super-human strength, skill and smarts from (and luck for) our two heroes. But if you can so easily accept the sanitized silliness of the latest Mission Impossible nonsense (which, clearly, most of the world did), then Take Point should prove a cakewalk of unusually piquant delight for most action fans. And if the film's finale offers up a nice nod toward a possible united Korea, it's too bad the filmmaker could not have allowed the emphasis to remain on the two men at the closing moment, rather than only on our heroic "Southie."

The film opened this past Friday in California in the Los Angeles and Orange County areas, and will expand eastward across the country in the days to come. To find the theaters nearest you, click here and then click on Find a Theater and then just keep clicking on View More until you've exhausted either the list or yourself.

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