Friday, July 15, 2022

Fantasia ’22: Special Delivery

In the movies, cars are supposed to be driven fast and then smashed to bits. Jang Eun-ha is just the person to do so. She is a special driver for a delivery service of dubious legality. She is not very welcoming, but when you absolutely have to be somewhere alive and in one-piece, Jang is your best bet in Park Dae-min’s Special Delivery, which had its North American premiere at this year’s Fantasia International Film Festival.

Jang also happens to be a North Korean defector, who now works for the chop shop-auto-resale-special delivery business owned by Baek Sa-jang, her former cross-border transporter. They are both pretty grouchy, so they get on well, in a bickering kind of way. She might lack charm, but she has skills behind the wheel. By now, she is to making regular late-night runs to the docks, so she doesn’t think much of her latest pick-up. However, the gangster disgraced baseball player Du-sik is fleeing is not just the mastermind of a sports-betting-points-shaving ring. Jo Kyung-pil is also a cop.

Tragically, Du-sik will miss his ride, but Jang still manages to pick up his son Seo-won, who happens to be holding a special banking flashdrive. Jang is not the touchy-feely type, but she recognizes a responsibility to keep the boy safe.

Obviously, there is a whole lot of flashy stunt driving going on in
Delivery. The rev-and-go action is a bit of a departure for Park, whose previous films were the period mystery Private Eye and the Joseon con caper Seondal: The Man Who Sells the River. All the fast-and-furious stuff is very well executed, but the dramatic elements cribbed from The Client are annoyingly manipulative.

Regardless, Park So-dam (probably best-known as the daughter in
Parasite) is steely and amusingly sarcastic as Jang. If this were a Hollywood movie, the ah-men press would be all over themselves praising her as a “rare” female action hero, but Delivery is Korean, so its just business as normal over there.

Song Sae-byeok is creepy as heck opposite her, playing the evil Jo. Kim Eui-sung also adds some interesting grizzle and attitude as Baek. Plus, Yum Hye-ran brings some quirky integrity to the mix as Section Chief Han, the NIS agent in charge of integrating DPRK defectors.

In fact, Jang’s status as a defector from the North gives the film richer socio-political dimensions. Although she is a deliberate outsider in the South, Park and his co-screenwriters clearly reference the horrors she and her family endured under the Kim family Communist dynasty. It is much grittier than the
F&F franchise, and much more grounded, but it is a good deal of fun. Highly recommended for fans of stunt driving, Special Delivery had its North American premiere at Fantasia ’22.