Saturday, June 22, 2024

“I, THE EXECUTIONER”

THE STORYTwo cops team up to track down a serial killer.

THE CASTHwang Jung-min & Jung Hae-in

THE TEAMRyoo Seung-wan (Director/Writer) & Lee Won-jae (Writer)

THE RUNNING TIME – 118 Minutes


It is an unwritten rule of the Cannes Film Festival that at least one film playing out of competition – and, more often than not, in the Midnight Screenings sidebar – will be a genre production from South Korea (a memorable example would include “Train to Busan” in 2016). Such is the case for “I, the Executioner,” the final late-night offering of the 2024 edition. The international title is a helpful clue for audiences who may have been daunted by the original moniker “Veteran 2”. Sure, this is a sequel to the 2015 film “Veteran,” also co-written and directed by Ryoo Seung-wan and starring Hwang Jung-min (and winner, among other things, of the award for Best Asian Film at the prestigious Sitges Film Festival in Spain). And yet, no foreknowledge is required to enjoy this new adventure, which changes tack from the original by dealing with a serial killer narrative rather than corporate malfeasance.

Jung-min returns as Seo Do-cheol, the hard-ass police detective who’ll stop at nothing to solve a case. When we last saw him, he was investigating a suicide that was really a murder committed to conceal the shady dealings of a conglomerate. This time, he crosses paths with a rookie cop, Park Sun-woo (Jung Hae-in), and they find themselves looking into the emergence of a serial killer, a vigilante who targets criminals and executes them in the same places they committed their misdeeds. While some would suggest this man should be allowed to carry out his work, Seo is having none of it: regardless of his targets, it’s murder, and the culprit must be brought to justice – even if it means potentially having to punch their way through the city to make sure the streets become safe again.

From the get-go, with the notes of “Yes Sir, I Can Boogie” setting up the first major action set-piece, it’s clear that Ryoo has aimed to be as hip as possible with this long-awaited sequel – first announced a month after the domestic theatrical release of the original – drawing us into a world of cool tunes and even cooler stunts. And, on those terms, “I, the Executioner” is a triumph, basking in the technical savvy of its director and the chemistry between the two stars, perfectly capable of conveying their characters’ emotions through both dialogue and action choreography that doesn’t really allow the viewer to pause for breathing.

It’s all pulled off with just the right amount of gusto to get past the fairly by-the-numbers writing, which goes through all the usual tropes of the buddy cop and serial killer categories with little originality – the bad guy is an especially obvious cliché – but with plenty of energy. What it lacks in terms of character study, it makes up for in being a very kinetic experience, the ideal treat for the midnight crowds that will undoubtedly embrace it on the festival circuit after the bombastic Cannes premiere.

THE RECAP

THE GOOD - The two leads have great chemistry, and the action set-pieces are impeccably executed.

THE BAD - The script doesn’t really do anything new with the subgenres it’s exploring, and the villain is kind of bland.

THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - None

THE FINAL SCORE - 7/10

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<b>THE GOOD - </b>The two leads have great chemistry, and the action set-pieces are impeccably executed.<br><br> <b>THE BAD - </b>The script doesn’t really do anything new with the subgenres it’s exploring, and the villain is kind of bland.<br><br> <b>THE OSCAR PROSPECTS - </b>None<br><br> <b>THE FINAL SCORE - </b>7/10<br><br>"I, THE EXECUTIONER"