Tuesday, October 06, 2015

The Target: The Korean Action Take on Point Blank

A former mercenary like Baek Yeo-hun would never be the good guy in a Hollywood movie. “Good” is a strong term for the former employee of a Blackwater-like outfit, but he is immeasurably better than the cabal of crooked cops running rampant through the city. Inconveniently, Baek nearly starts the film as the dead guy, but an unsuspecting ER doctor has the misfortune of saving his life in Chang’s The Target (trailer here), the Korean remake-reconception of Fred Cavayé’s Point Blank, which releases today on DVD and digital, from Lionsgate.

When adapting Cavayé’s French fugitive-style thriller, Chang (a.k.a. Yun Hong-seung) opted to go bigger and bolder every chance he could. Instead of a burglary, Baek steps into a frame-up intended for his developmentally challenged brother. They were not expecting someone with Baek’s particular set of skills, but he nearly makes a premature exit anyway. Dr. Lee Tae-jun manages to save him, but he is rewarded for his troubles with the abduction of his mega-pregnant wife, Jeong Hui-ju. The kidnapper’s demand is straight forward, but difficult to execute—trade the recuperating Baek for Jeong.

Nevertheless, Dr. Lee smuggles the suspect out of the hospital, turning into an outlaw as a result. Unfortunately, Baek refuses to cooperate, giving the doctor the slip. Eventually, Lee will catch up to Baek—and they will even join forces when they realize a band of corrupt coppers is trying to kill them both.

While the formerly comatose anti-hero was a mere safecracker in Cavayé’s original, albeit one played by the hardnosed Roschdy Zem, Baek is a bad cat of an entirely different stripe. He takes over the movie from the innocent Wrong Man doctor, turning it into an old school beatdown. He is the kind of grizzled action hero who can easily take on twenty men at once. It might not be credible, but it is really fun to watch.

Sort of like the original, Target climaxes with a showdown in the police station, but Chang cranks up the action to levels nearly as earth-shaking as Alan Yuen’s explosive Firestorm. He really lets Seoul institutional buildings have it, unleashing all kinds of bedlam in the hospital and police station. However, Jun Chul-hong’s adapted screenplay also increases the emotional stakes with the addition of honest Inspector Jeong Yeong-ju’s implied lesbian relationship with her junior partner, Park Su-jin.

Baek is totally in Ryu Seung-ryong’s steely, hardboiled power zone and he duly knocks it out of the park. He is perfectly counterbalanced by Yu Jun-sang, who is flamboyantly evil as Senior Inspector Song Gi-cheol, the ruthless mastermind. Although he loses a lot of screen time in the translation, Lee Jin-uk manages to withstand the withering force of Ryu and Yu’s hardcore personas. Somehow, Kim Seong-ryeong and Jo Eun-ji also manage to add some depth as Inspector Jeong and Park.

Wrongfully accused thrillers sometimes get a bit angsty because of the alienation involved, but like Choi Ho’s rock’em sock’em Big Match, Chang keeps the adrenaline amped so far up, genre fans will not sweat the dire existential stakes and just enjoy the ride. Crackling good fun, The Target is enthusiastically recommended for action fans. It is now available on DVD and digital from Lionsgate.