Its the return of the Korean Movie Night and I’m happy to say, this was was AWESOME! Hwai: Monster Boy is one of those movies where, in the first few minutes, you know you are in for a good time–an incredibly violent time–but still a good time.
I’m not entirely sure where to start on this. The acting? The storytelling? All was exceptional.
Lets go with plot. A brutal gang of five men kidnap a boy and, unsure of what to do with him, decide to raise him as their own. The story restarts when the boy is seventeen, has five ‘fathers’, and has been trained to be a killer. When the fathers force him to join them on a job, he finds out who he really is, and begins to extract his revenge.
Woah. That’s a lot to take in.
Many dramas pose the question, are monsters born or are they made? In this movie, you see the systemic turning of this boy into a monster and his internal struggles that come from that. Does he want to be a monster? No, but during his first kill, once he gets over the shock of it, there is an undeniable pleasure, which he feels guilty about but his ‘fathers’ revel in. We’re not given much time to sit an ponder as we learn the big father–the crazy one who is obviously in charge–chose that man as Hwayi’s first kill as the man is the boys own father who has been waiting for him to come home all these years.
Of course, once Hwayi learns this he feels horribly guilty, but also betrayed by the ones who raised him. As, though they are all crazy killers, it was his dysfunctional family. And some of them legitimately care for him and want whats best for him in their own way. Although, interesting side point, while they loved and protected him, they never protected him from the big father. Was it because they couldn’t? Or they wouldn’t?
It comes down to identity. Is he a monster, the monster they’ve raised him to be? Damaged forever? Or can he come back from this? Is he Hwayi or the boy who was kidnapped? Where and with who did he belong? These were all interesting questions that the movie posed, and, even though with the story’s open ending, I find myself being hopeful for the boy, whoever he decides to be, that he’s going to make a path of his own.
I love that the Korean name of the movie is The Boy Who Ate Monsters, in terms of the plot of the movie, it means so much. Were the monsters he ate the fathers who raised him? Or is it referring to him conquering the internal monsters who had chased him since he was a child? Was the big father right in that only by becoming a monster yourself could you chase the real monsters away?
Oooh, a movie that leaves me thinking at the end of it always makes me happy in my heart-heart.
The acting in this movie was top-shelf. Yeo Jin Gu, who played Hwayi, was just amazing. This was a really complex character and he managed all the aspects of it really well. He is definitely now on my list of actors to watch. All of the fathers were familiar character actors who are solid in their performances.
If I had one complaint to the movie, was 1) the henchman from the evil corporation, played by Yoo Yoon Seok (who played Chilbongi in Answer Me 1994), I’m not sure if was the lack of backstory to the character, but I had a hard time buying him–it wasn’t his fault,I just think they cast it too young. He was the right hand man (or the right hand killer) to the huge conglomerate. I couldn’t believe they’d put so much trust into someone so young–unless bad guys kidnapping kids and raising them to be killers is something that regularly happens in this world. 2) I had a hard time believing that big father would have left the girl who helped Hwayi alive at the end. We know this man is disturbed and evil, and out to sever all ties Hwayi to the nice and kind things in life. So why would he leave her alive? While a nice touch for Hwayi’s closure at the end, it just didn’t make sense.
Would I recommend this movie to others? If you got this far and are not running right out to find it, well then obviously I have failed at my job here. And if that’s the case–go out and fudging watch this. I’m fairly certain you won’t be disappointed. (Unless you don’t like violent movies, then perhaps it’s best to take a pass.)