Retirement is never easy, especially when you’re a hitman.
In-nam (played by Jung-min Hwang) has killed for the last time – or so he thinks. However, before he can retire to the beaches of Panama, In-nam travels to Thailand to investigate a kidnapping case. To make matters worse, In-nam’s last job involved killing Ray the Butcher’s (Lee Jung-jae) brother. Now the Butcher is out for revenge.
While the plot is a bit contrived, director Hong Won Chan allows the story to unfold naturally, even if the third act is chalked with over-the-top action. Chan breathes new life into this familiar concept with brutal action and great tension, all built on the strength of Hwang’s performance.
Deliver Us from Evil brings movies such as The Raid: Redemption, Taken and John Wick to mind. The action isn’t as fast as The Raid, but it’s claustrophobic with narrow hallways aplenty. The opening scene shows In-nam infiltrating the head of a human trafficker’s home. We’ve seen this scene in countless action films, in which the protagonist incapacitates the guards to get to his main target, but this seems different. First, the crime lord doesn’t live in a penthouse or gargantuan estate. This is his private residence. Although this isn’t personal, it does feel much more intimate.
Even during the larger action sequences, the movie looks more like guerrilla filmmaking than it does a polished action film, which adds an extra level of realism. Even the yellow tint gives the locations a washed and harsh feeling.
I compared the action to The Raid: Redemption, but Netflix’s Daredevil is probably a more accurate depiction of the action. Like the iconic hallway fight, In-nam takes damage throughout the fights – although his stamina and recovery time seem superhuman at times. The choreography isn’t refined, but it’s damn sure effective. Ray and In-nam aren’t showing off so much as trying to tear each other apart. That said, there is some moments of editing or speed ramping of the fights that not only don’t look natural, but actually feel a bit shoddy.
Hwang’s performance throughout this film is nothing short of incredible. He oozes exhaustion as he waits to retire. He then must play a man pushed to the edge while still delivering the demanding physical action. At one point, Hwang’s character has a moment with another character that requires him to be vulnerable, scared, and emotional. He pulls it off flawlessly, switching back and forth as the story demands.
Jung-jae’s Ray the Butcher is a cool character. Although the story doesn’t require a lot of range from him, he handles the physical parts menacingly. Park Jung-min’s crossdressing Yui is great comedic relief but unfortunately also doesn’t get much to do in this movie other than being a guide and translator for In-nam.
This thriller is refreshing because so many of the sets look and feel natural. The narrow streets haven’t been rebuilt to twice the size to accommodate Avengers sized explosions and destruction. Deliver Us from Evil delivers us from the evils of cookie cutter filmmaking, repackaging a familiar premise into a personal tale.
ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: The Big Comic Page was provided a preview copy of the film, and the disc contains a making of and filming location extras each about three minutes that convey what the filmmakers wanted to do with this film as well as the importance of the backdrops and locations, which are well worth the watch. As well as the teaser and trailers (both international and US).
Deliver us From Evil is available on Digital, Blu-ray and DVD May 25.
The writer of this piece is: Laurence Almalvez
Laurence tweets from @IL1511