Saturday, January 13, 2024

Park Hoon-jung’s The Childe

So-called "Kopinos" are embarrassing phenomenon for South Korea, because the half-Korean half-Filipino orphans are mostly the products of sex tourism to the Philippines, who receive no financial support from their deadbeat dads. Marco Han’s mother might be something of an exception (the nature of his conception is left diplomatically vague), but they lived in similar poverty. When his mother falls sick, Han starts looking for his father, whose employees happen to be looking for him too in director-screenwriter Park Hoon-jung’s The Childe (with its Olde English “e”), which releases Tuesday on BluRay.

As a boxer, Han is used to hard knocks, but his mother’s decline is a bitter pill to swallow. It seems too good to be true when his birth-father’s sleazy lawyer suddenly turns up, offering to take him to Korea—because, of course, it is. Weirdly, a mystery man with a sickly cough seems to be shadowing them, which, indeed, he is.

Things get a bit hectic once he arrives in Korea. For reasons he does not understand. Coughing Man (who refers to himself as “the Expert” or “Gwigongja,” the literal translation being “Nobleman”) is out to get Han, just like his entitled half-brother Han Yi, as well as Yoon-ju, a femme fatale assassin working for a rival family faction. In fact, the first half of the film does not make much sense, because the three villains seem to be squabbling over who gets to kill poor, clueless Marco.

However, Park really flips the switch in the second half. Everyone’s cynical motivation suddenly becomes crystal clear and it all culminates in a massively violent, but extremely crowd-pleasing action showdown.

Indeed, Kim Seon-ho and Go A-ra make terrific villains (or anti-heroes or whatever) as the swaggering Gwigongja and the lethally deceptive Yoon-ju. They are both way more interesting the prince-and-the-pauper half-brothers. Before
The Childe, Kim and Go were mostly known for Korean television, but they show they really have the goods.

Park has developed an international reputation as a genre filmmaker, but he has yet to recapture the magic of
New World. The Tiger is a distinctive survival thriller that deserves a second look, whereas The Witch duology is fun, but predictable. Thanks to some terrific beatdowns and shootouts, settles into a place somewhere between New World and The Witch[es]. It is solidly entertaining and surprisingly clever. Recommended for fans of Korean thrillers, The Childe releases this Tuesday (1/16) on BluRay.