The Suspect (2013) – By Duane L. Martin

Ok, I don’t usually do this, but since this film is a really involved action thriller, I’m going to use Well Go USA’s synopsis here in the review, and then I’ll talk about the film.

“Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea – until he is abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter murdered. Hunted and on the run, torn between grief and vengeance, he takes a job as a night driver for the CEO of a powerful corporation. The chairman is brutally assassinated – but gives Dong-chul a pair of glasses before he dies. Now, he’s on the run again. Accused of murder, wanted for treason, and desperate to uncover the volatile national secrets hidden inside the glasses. Dong-Chul wants the truth. And he’ll start a war to get it.”

The story is actually much more involved than that, but I’d spend the next hour trying to figure out how to explain it all, so we’ll just go with their description.

Now, when I say the story is involved, I mean it’s involved to the point where it’s confusing throughout much of the film. For me things only really seemed to come together during the second half or so. I think this had to do with a variety of things, including the large number of characters, not being able to keep some of the names straight, the lack of a definitive explanation as to why some of the people were involved, or how they were actually involved, etc… Now, that being said, later in the film these things all become apparent, but until you reach that point, you may find yourself feeling just a bit lost.

While it takes a while for the story to really come together in a clear way, there are several other aspects of this film that either worked or didn’t work that I feel are worth mentioning.

Let’s start with something that really worked well. Colonel Min Se-hun is the country’s top spy hunter, and the dynamic between him and Ji really works well. The man is caught up in a system where those in power above him are all corrupt and paid off, and he has to struggle with them while at the same time trying to find Ji. Over time, he comes to realize that Ji isn’t guilty of killing his former employer and that he’s been set up by those in power both inside the organization and outside of it that want the glasses that the chairman gave Ji right before he died. The glasses contain a secret that some think is the formula to an incredibly deadly biological weapon…but is it?

The cast in this film were all really solid performers as well. They were believable and really brought the most out of their characters and the relationships between them.

Now, for the things that didn’t work…

The action. This film is an action thriller more or less. There are some great fight scenes and car chases and all the great stuff you’d expect in an action thriller, and it all looked like it was extremely well done. Unfortunately, the viewer isn’t given much of an opportunity to enjoy it, because much of the action in this film is ruined by close-ups and extremely fast edits that make it really difficult, if not impossible at times to see and enjoy what’s happening. There were entire fight scenes that would have been spectacular had they been shot and edited properly, and yet because of the close-ups and quick edits, mostly they just leave you feeling a bit nauseous.

Something else that didn’t work was the side story with the girl who was making a documentary. She used to be a reporter, but she was fired after political pressure was put on her superiors to do so. If they explained any of that part of the story in the film, I missed it. Other than the part she plays in the main part of the story, I really don’t understand why she was even involved in the first place.

One final problem I’d like to mention is that the film is entirely too long, coming in at 137 minutes. It’s supposed to be a fast paced action thriller, but how fast paced can it be at 137 minutes? The strange part is that I can’t really pick out anything specific that could have been cut to shorten the running time. I just know that while I was watching it, it felt like it was entirely too long, and by the end I was really ready for it to be over.

So, can I recommend this film? Yes I can, but with some reservations. The problems I mentioned really hurt my enjoyment of the overall film, but the good things I mentioned make it worth watching, especially the dynamic between the colonel and Ji. So yes it’s definitely worth seeing, but don’t be surprised when you find yourself annoyed at how ineptly the action sequences were shot and edited, and don’t get too antsy about trying to figure things out in the beginning, because by the end most of it will come together for you.

If you’d like to find out more about this film, you can check out its page on the Well Go USA website here: