masterly master lee

a home for forgotten and famous korean pulp, its heroes, its heroines, and its pulpeteers

Fate 숙명 2008 review

fate6Can you say ‘overacting’? Then you can say Fate. Violent glares, emotional outbursts, screaming contests, ten minute swearing sessions, extreme action, one man beating up tens of tough gangsters, overcooked romantic (?) liaisons, sentimental flashbacks… There’s Fate for you. It’s the story of four friends, gangsters, who rob another gangster (their own boss). They get caught and then the shit hits the fan. One disappears (An Naesang 안내상), another one gets hurt and addicted to drugs (gangster flick staple Kim In-gweon 김인권), the third one gets sent to jail (Seong Seung-hyeon 성승현 in his first role after being released from the army), while the fourth one (Kwon Sang-woo 권상우) gleefully betrayed the others and rises to the top of the underworld. Then the friend who got sent to jail is set free and the evil betrayer friend is about to be betrayed himself…

Nothing new here, you’ve seen it all before. Noteworthy stuff the Master noticed:

  1. Great action scenes. The Seoul School for Action Actors (or Stunt Men) has been delivering a bunch of new recruits every year and it shows. Action in Korean movies has never been as good as it is today, mainly thanks to the efforts of martial arts directors (who are stunt men/action actors themselves of course) such as first and foremostly Jeong Duhong (정두홍) who did the martial arts direction of virtually all important Korean action movies, shaping the way action looks today almost singlehandedly. And it shows in this movie. Riveting stuff.
  2. Kwon Sang-woo 권상우 as the baddie. With his perfect son-in-law looks and toothpaste-smile, Kwon can get on your nerves, but not if he is a baddie who is to be vanquished. His acting here won’t get him an acting award anytime soon, but he is so much fun to watch. His one-dimensionality while method-acting the evil gangster boss who forgot about friendship, duty and honor is positively fun!
  3. date1Pak Hanbyeol  박한별. She is gorgeous and way too cute to be playing a gangster’s slutty girlfriend. But then, what does the Master know about how such women look?
  4. High production values. Everything looks like it might be a commercial. Maybe it is a commercial. A commercial singing the praises of gangster life, helped in doing so by several flashbacks to nice trips to the countryside, candle-lit beach dinners (ever tried that? Must be a b&*_!@tch lighting the candle) and romantic encounters, all covered in slimy sentimental mucus. And did you know wounded gangsters recover in the time it takes to read a sentimental letter while lying in a very nice, cosy hospital room?
  5. The director Kim Haegon 김해곤. After directing one of the best Korean movies ever, Raybang 라이방, he can’t do anything wrong in the eyes of the Master.

fate4In all, this is not a very successful movie. The action is great, although there is a wee bit too much emphasis on how good the two main characters Kwon and Seong look. The emotional content of the movie is of inferior quality and the movie would have been better without it. The Master is not very fond of helpless, crying women. The women he knows don’t cry and kick butt! Nonetheless,  The Master thought that there are some interesting elements in here (inter-gangster relations, Kwon Sang-woo’s consistent obsession with money and swearing, Pak Hanbyeol’s potentially interesting role), but they fail to get developed satisfactorily or are smothered by the cliche’s (male friendship gone awry, gangsters’ betrayal, inconsequential and crying females).

fate5The Master was entertained, but Fate could have been much better. A bit of a missed chance, this one. It seems as if Kim Haegon wanted much more, but did not manage to bring those elements out that would have made this movie more memorable than what it is now: an entertaining and predictable gangster story starring two of Korea’s most popular actors in a movie that is (once again) too long for what it offers. Keep the punches flying, though! Master Lee is certain that Kim Haegon will one day deliver.

As for the Pak Hanbyeol pictures: well, the master just couldn’t help himself.

 

Oh, a note for the sound engineer. Apparently the wrong soundtrack was played alongside the movie. What the Master heard was a soundtrack suited for a romantic movie (yes, the dancing bears were here again) and not for a hard-boiled noir gangster flick.

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