Face Reader Review (SPOILERS)

Posted by Stephanie on February 12, 2014


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I read this article the other day which said that Lee Jong Suk really disliked himself in last years hit Face Reader. He thought he brought down the movie whenever he was on screen. 1) This is untrue. He was great in Face Reader. However, I think I understand where he’s coming from, but it’s not his acting but instead the plotting of the movie itself. And 2) I realized I never actually posted a review for Face Reader after seeing it when I first moved here. I’d seen it in a double feature with Tough As Iron and I reviewed that one, but Face Reader? Completely blew it off.

While I’m going to sound all negative about this movie, let me just say, a lot of people really loved this movie. It got great acclaim and even bigger ticket sales. So I could be totally wrong here. However, for me it was one of those movies where I felt like I should have liked it more than I actually did. It’s like those ‘very important movies’ that come out here in the states just in the nick of time for Oscar nominations.

For the most part, I had the same problem with Face Reader that I do with most Korean movies. They have a great premise, lots of interesting storylines and unique and interesting characters. Unfortunately, they tried to cram so much of this within a 2 hour time span so thing were cramped and not fully fleshed out.face reader12

Take the son for instance. This is one storyline which I found the most interesting and am sad how much they just left out of the movie. With his birth defect (a visible limp) and coming from a family line tainted by the word ‘traitor’–he doesn’t have much of a chance in life. He hates his father being a face reader and hates his inability to do anything about the injustice he sees around him. Within the story he runs away from home, buys a non-traitor infected ID, and goes to school (in my brain it’s totally Sungkyunkwan) and manages to work is way up through the ranks to have a low level government job.
His desire to help the less fortunate, his dislike for what his father is and yet loving his father himself, this is a story in itself. But we only get tiny bits jammed into the already packed main storyline. So in this effect, yes, Jong Suk is right, when he is on screen, the story does halt a bit. But it’s not due to his acting, but the writing itself.

Please Kmovie writers, please choose one or two storylines and do those really well.

While I’m not a huge fan of political plots, I enjoyed the characters of within this story. The bumbling father and uncle, so easily manipulated into the story, finding themselves in the middle of political intrigue. And knowing this is based around actual people in history? Makes it harder. Lots and lots of bad things happened in Korea’s history. It’s pretty much a given that if you find yourselves on the side of the child ruler, it’s not going to end well for you.

It certainly doesn’t here. For anyone.

Basically Face Reader is a story where evildoers win and the good guys are either dead or horribly scarred (emotionally and/or literally) by the end.

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There is also an interesting tone to the movie. At the beginning, with the comedic team of uncle and father, it’s almost a screwball comedy. The way they end up tricked into a really bad contract and then how they bumble their way out of it? It’s almost like they are Forrest Gumping their way through history. But as the intrigue gets closer and political sides must be chosen, the tone gets darker and darker.

And, while I didn’t love this movie–it certainly doesn’t mean I didn’t cry at the end.

From the rumor mill I hear that there are plans in the works to turn Face Reader into an actual Kdrama. Now this I’m excited about. With the length of a Kdrama you’d actually have the space to flesh out this plot and give all these interesting characters the space we need to be able to enjoy them.

So, Face Reader. Lots of people loved it. I didn’t. But should you watch it? Absolutely.

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