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(Movie Review) 'Idol,' confusing but thought-provoking study of human nature

17:20 March 12, 2019

By Shim Sun-ah

SEOUL, March 12 (Yonhap) -- "Idol" is a wildly complicated, exhausting and disjointed thriller that somehow manages to be a thought-provoking commentary on people who mess up their lives while blindly following their own greed.

The second feature from director Lee Su-jin of the internationally acclaimed "Han Gong-ju" is built around one central event, a hit-and-run accident, and two fathers -- one struggling to find the truth about the death of his only son in the accident and the other desperate to hide the truth as it could endanger himself, not only his careless son who caused the accident.

A scene from "Idol" (Yonhap)

The film stands out from other thrillers for its ironic premise and profound study into human beings and Korean society.

Despite such an interesting premise and its A-list cast, including Han Suk-kyu, Seol Kyung-gu and Chun Woo-hee, the film has not a few shortcomings for a commercial mystery thriller. These include the elusive motives for some decisions made by the two main characters and excessive subplots that almost all go unresolved.

Once the truth is discovered, the film loses its suspense and veers onto a path of studying human nature. This is somewhat understandable considering that the film is basically not a whodunit story but is at its heart about how people tend to keep making bad decisions in their blind pursuits driven by their greed and ambition.

With so much narrative uncertainty and rapid jumps to scenes with peripheral characters, however, the experience is exhausting. Some lines of dialogue spoken in a dialect from Yanbian, an ethnic Korean-Chinese area, were inaudible even though they often included important clues.

A still from "Idol" (Yonhap)

The movie starts with Koo Myeong-hoi (played by Han Seok-kyu), a budding politician, returning home from an overseas trip and finding his wife crouched beside his car with a bloody corpse. Their son Johan hit someone while driving drunk on a desolate road and then brought the body home. While his wife begs him to secretly bury the body for their son, Koo forces the son to turn himself in after returning the body to the place where it was because he worried the hit-and-run case might otherwise imperil even his political life.

Yoo Jung-sik (played by Seol Kyung-gu), the devoted father of the young disabled man killed in the accident, falls into despair when he finds his missing son at a morgue. He then hires a lawyer to look into the mysterious case and finds that the boy was alive for hours after he was hit.

Also learning that the boy's bride Choi Ryeon-hwa (Chun Woo-hee) was together with him at the scene of the accident, Yoo tries to find the woman, who has vanished for fear of possible deportation for being an illegal immigrant.

A still from "Idol" (Yonhap)

But he is not the only man chasing the woman. Koo hires a private detective to find her whereabouts with a different purpose -- removing the person who might be the accident's only witness.

In the process, we learn that Ryeon-hwa is pregnant with the child of the killed boy, Bu-nam. This is when Jung-sik's object of obsession shifts to his daughter-in-law. Now that his loving son is gone, Jung-sik accepts a shady deal with Myeong-hoi to save the woman. This alliance looks awkward at first but not so much on second thought because they are ultimately the same type of person, devoting themselves completely to their idols. For Myeong-hoi, political power and fame is all he wants, while family blood is everything to Jung-sik.

The movie's cynical ending showing that people's blind belief in their idols never dies feels bitter.

"Idol" is set to open in local theaters on March 20.

sshim@yna.co.kr
(END)

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