The Suspect! Was so excited for this movie. What could be bad about it? Gong Yoo. Action. Shirtless Gong Yoo. Kickass fight scenes. Gong Yoo kicking ass. How could this go wrong?
But for me? It kinda did.
I should qualify this. Suspect is still a really fun time and sometimes, yes, you need to kind of turn your brain off when watching an action movie, as you’re in there for the thrills, not so much for a deep, cerebral mind-bender. So if you turn your brain off, yes, there is lots and lots to enjoy.
First off we’ve got Gong Yoo. He did a great job in this. I don’t know if he’s done anything action-y before and I just missed it, but here he was amazing. He handled the character and fighting scenes with ease. And, of course, there’s the dirty, sweaty, shirtless scenes. What’s better than Gong Yoo? Apparently, that would be dirty, sweaty Gong Yoo.
Then we have the two main characters themselves. The movie set them up well. Ji Dong Cheol (Gong Yoo), the former North Korean special agent, despite being framed for murder, refuses to be swayed from his course, which is: find the men responsible for the death of his wife and daughter, kill them, and then commit suicide.
Yep, he’s a man with a plan.
Instead of being stressed about about the fact he’s been framed for murder, he’s able to use the situation to his benefit, as the very people who are are assigned to kill him and retrieve the glasses the murdered man gave him, are same ones who killed his family. Not only that, but he tries to get information from the police on their whereabouts in exchange for turning himself in. I like that he wasn’t just running around and hiding.
The other great character, is Min Se Hoon (Park He Soon) the man National Security sent to chase Ji Dong Cheol down. Park He Soon was great in this! He was also a man who firmly stuck to his beliefs, including his need for revenge against Ji Dong Cheol for killing his team, but leaving him alive, which ruined his career (as there was suspicion he was in cahoots with the North. Why else would he be the only one left alive?)
The way they introduced the character was perfect, how he had no care for himself jumping from the plane to save another soldier—only to sneer at the man after he was saved. Min Se Hoon is brash, crude, and focused. What I liked best about him though, was the fact that he didn’t blindly follow what the higher-ups told him. Right from the beginning, he knew there was more they weren’t telling him, he just didn’t care. And as more and more evidence came to light that Ji Dong Cheol had been set up, he didn’t let his need for revenge get in the way of the truth.
I love those stories where people who used to be enemies grudgingly start to respect each other and work together.
The original family murderer was surprisingly well done too for a smaller part. He was friends with Ji Dong Cheol and his wife. He didn’t want to kill her, but in a government where it’s kill or we’re going to kill your own loved ones, he didn’t have a choice. And you could tell that, unlike the other bad guys in the show, he had lived with the internal consequences of that decision for a long time.
Cherry Cordial clued me in that this character was played by Kim Sung Kyun who also played Samchunpo in Answer Me 1994. I totally missed it!
While completely unbelievable (and they went on for too long), the car chase scenes were pretty cool. As an action movie staple, there isn’t much we haven’t seen by way of car chase, but The Suspect managed to find some new, interesting ways to totally destroy cars—and the streets of Seoul.
Other good things? I have to admit the last scene when Ji Dong Cheol finds his daughter made me cry. I’d watch that the movie again just so I could see that scene again.
Like everything, all ‘good’ things must come to an end, and, as much as I wanted to love this movie, the many what the? moments, really kept pulling me out of the movie.
The major thing which kept me from being sucked in was the camera work. I’m not just talking shaky handy-cam, but the cuts of film themselves were so many, there was no way you could focus on the scene in front of you. This was glaringly obvious during the fight scenes. Yes, I understand that there needs to be a fair amount of camera trickery during action scenes to hide the fact that these people aren’t actually in hand to hand combat, but you couldn’t really see anything. While watching, I found myself repeatedly comparing it to the fight scenes in the drama Heartless City, especially the one in the first episode with Doctor’s Son vs. all the mobsters in the long hallway. Now that was one sexy fight scene. It was graphic (love cable shows!), shot from a distance, and was almost like a dance, it was so well choreographed.
I didn’t get that hell yeah! feeling from any of The Suspect’s fight scenes.
Unfortunately, I don’t think it was just the camera work that held me separate from the movie. My biggest problem is that Ji Dong Cheol had no real motivation, no real stakes until he found out that there was a chance his daughter was alive. It was at that point I really became invested in the movie as this was an interesting twist, but it came too late. Yes, he wanted to kill the people who killed his family, but I don’t think there was ever a point where we didn’t know that was going to happen. And why should we root for this anyway? He was just going to off himself when he accomplished it. One thing I learned while writing was that your lead character should not have a negative goal. Once we learn she might be alive, he now has reason to live, a reason to push forward to find out the truth and hopefully find his daughter. Now this is a positive goal.
This brought out an amazing scene at the end of the film: When he realized at the end that it didn’t matter what he did to the bad guy, the bad guy was never going to give up the location of his daughter, Ji Dong Cheol broke down and begged the man to tell him where she was. This was a great character moment to see a character who had been so strong and unbending finally brought low. And when he finally gave up and killed the man, getting his revenge, as, at that time, it was the only thing he could do? So fulfilling. It was also great moment between the fugitive and the man who hunted him.
Looking back at the plot there were a lot of WTF? moments. I know I had some issues with the same thing in the last movie I reviewed, T.O.P’s Commitment, but when I wrote that, I had no idea that that movie would make a lot more sense than this one.
Buckwheat? Really? How did the bad guy government official who was working in cahoots with the vice president of the same company run by the president who they murdered not know that the top secret microfiche that they were all looking for contained the instructions to make genetically modified buckwheat instead of a nuclear weapon? Why would the president have been trying to make a nuclear weapon in the first place? And wouldn’t anyone in the company not know the plan for the formula had changed?
And why the top secret buckwheat anyway? At the end of the movie North Korea was happy to have it just given to them out in the open, so why all the subterfuge? If he apparently knew bad guys were after him, why not announce to someone he wasn’t a weapons dealer? “Hey guys who are trying to kill me, FYI, unless you’re have a killer pancake recipe you need to make your own buckwheat for, there is no reason to be chasing after me.”
There are lots of smaller instances of WTF’ery in this movie, like the timeline, the extra assassins that kept popping up, the miscasting of the dead wife (way too young), the fact that the chances of him surviving the hanging—both the drop and his escape alive—were pretty much nil, and many, many more, but it would sound nit-picky.
So in no way am I saying don’t watch this. Go! Watch this! Have a great time. As an overly-slick action movie, its a good way to kill a few hours. And, of course, there is the dirty, shirtless Gong Yoo. But as for myself, I can’t help but take stories and characters apart, looking at what worked and what doesn’t. As a former fiction writer, this ability has been drilled into my brain.
For better or worse.