“The Target” follows “Cold Eyes” in the recent trend of Korean studios remaking films from around the world, being based upon the 2010 French action thriller “Point Blank” by director Fred Cavayé. Former music video helmer and director of popular horror hit “Death Bell” Chang steps behind the camera for this new version (replacing original director Juhn Jai Hong), with actor Ryu Seung Ryong cementing his leading man status after his success with “Miracle in Cell No. 7” by taking on the title role of a dangerous man on the run. The film enjoyed both critical and commercial success, playing in official selection at the 2014 Cannes Film Festival in the Midnight Screening section, as well as pulling in more than 2 million admissions at the domestic box office.
The film opens with Ryu as Yeo Hoon, injured and being chased by armed men before being hit by a car and rushed to hospital, where he’s placed under police guard due to his suspicious wounds. Shortly after, his doctor Tae Joon (Lee Jin Wook, “Miss Granny”) is attacked and his pregnant wife Hee Joo (Jo Yeo Jeong, “Obsessed”) is snatched, being informed by a mysterious voice over the phone that he has to somehow get Yeo Hoon out of the hospital. Although he succeeds, with tough female police inspector Jeong (Kim Sung Ryung, “Codename: Jackal”) and assassins on their trail, he’s forced to team up with Yeo Hoon to try and get to the bottom of what’s rapidly revealed to be a far-reaching and deadly conspiracy.
“The Target” follows “Point Blank” pretty faithfully, and is basically a lean chase thriller that whips past in an efficient hour and a half. On the plus side, as he showed with “Death Bell”, Chang is a very genre-savvy director, and does a solid job of pressing the right buttons at the right time, keeping things moving and throwing in no end of kinetic action sequences. The film benefits from a hard, gritty edge, with lots of brutal violence, fist fights, shoot outs, stabbings and vicious torture, all of which pack a considerable punch thanks to some excellent choreography and stunts, as well as the now standard “Bourne” style aggressively quick editing. It’s a hyper-macho affair throughout, at times almost to the point of parody, with the characters absorbing incredible amounts of punishment in loving close up, and with plenty of wound stitching and shots of blood and bruises – the testosterone fairly drips off the screen. All of this combines to give the film a real shot of adrenalin, and it’s undeniably one of the more intense genre rides from Korea of late.
Perhaps due to the action overload, there’s sadly not room for much else, and the film doesn’t do quite so well in other areas. The plot itself is flimsy and lacking in surprises, the conspiracy playing out exactly as expected and the script really only serving to propel things forward to the next big set piece. The same goes for the characters, none of whom have any real semblance of depth, Yeo Hoon being a bit of a hulking blank and Tae Joon never convincing as the meek doctor who finds himself having to get his hands dirty. Blame can’t really be laid at the feet of either Ryu Seung Ryong or Lee Jin Wook, both of whom deliver fittingly physical and reasonable performances without having much to work with, though the film would undoubtedly have been more involving and suspenseful had a little more attention be paid to making them actually interesting or sympathetic – or indeed if more thought had gone into making the plot believable and substantial.
To be fair though, Chang seems very much aware of this, clearly being more focused on relentlessly pushing full speed ahead, and as a stripped-down action rollercoaster “The Target” meets its modest aims. Whilst nothing very special and unlikely to linger in the memory after the credits roll, it’s a solid and frequently thrilling piece of lightweight cinema which should provide genre fans with sufficient entertainment and excitement.
Chang (director)/Chang (screenplay)
CAST: Ryu Seung-Ryong … Yeo-hoon
Jun-Sang Yu … Chief Detective Song
Jin-wook Lee … Tae-joon
Kim Sung-Ryoung … Young-joo
Yeo-Jeong Jo … Hee-joo
Eun-ji Jo … Soo-jin
Jin Guo … Sung-hoon