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July 17, 2014

The Suspect

The Suspect 1.jpg

Won Shin-yun - 2013
Well Go USA Entertainment Region 1 DVD

It isn't until the epilogue that the shots in The Suspect are held long enough to get a sense of the environment and the people within the shot. Up till then, the film is virtually like a two hour series of action paintings. Each shot is so fast, in some cases almost subliminal. Had The Suspect been made with film rather than produced digitally, it would have probably been even more of an editor's nightmare. Just as the film seems composed of many small shots with small hints of information, so it is with the story, that it takes a while to piece it together to make some kind of sense.

On the most basic narrative level, Ji, a former North Korean agent who defected to South Korea, is accused of murdering a businessman, him employer. The businessman is known to have dealings with North Korea, but the nature of his business is in question. The pursuit of Ji involves rival South Korean security agencies, with eventual involvement of what seems like every cop in Seoul. Ji is alternatively the pursued as well as the pursuer, chasing after the people who set him up. Ji's main pursuers, Min, had a run-in with Ji years earlier - that neither spy killed each other put a cast on both in their respective countries. As is eventually revealed, both are pawns used by others.

The Suspect 2.jpg

The double dealings extend to both side. A flashback shows the punishment meted out to Ji by North Korean officers, leading to his defection. Those in power in South Korea prove themselves to be almost equally treacherous. Unlike Won's previous films, this one was written by Lim Sang-yoon, whose A Company Man was a notable film about a hit man considering getting out of "the business".

Won, a former stuntman, uses all of his past resources here. Hollywood filmmakers might want to take notice of a car chase scene where Ji races forwards, backwards and even sideways through the streets of Seoul. Cars crash, flip over and spin out of control. There is even, for the blink of an eye, the equivalent of Roger Ebert's favorite car chase cliche, the fruit cart, in this case, oranges flying across the screen. According to AsianWiki, The Suspect took nine months to shoot which makes sense considering how many quick shots were used for a film with a longer than average running time.

Not exactly an "in joke", but there is also a subplot with data held on a disc contained in a DVD case for Mr. Vengeance. Nothing here is as brutal as what's found in Park's trilogy, but most viewers should feel quite sympathetic about Ji's vengeance as the screen fades to black.

Posted by Peter Nellhaus at July 17, 2014 07:56 AM