Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

The Last Exorcism

Posted by sean On April - 27 - 2011

Few have a reaction like this anymore when they’re told the devil is after them.

Another crazy possessed girl is back with The Last Exorcism, an amateur mess that severely fails at trying to create anything truly scary or original.  It’s the latest pseudo-documentary with hopes of riding off the success of films like Paranormal Activity or at least make a profit with its low-budget fiasco.  Instead of using what made those films good or improving their mistakes, director Daniel Stamm loses track and ends up producing just a poorly done horror feature.

 

Taking place somewhere in the South, The Last Exorcism is about Cotton Marcus, a minister who decides to hire a camera crew to expose the Church’s fraud by performing a staged exorcism with a devout family.  What he and the crew don’t realize is that they may actually be dealing with a real possession.  It starts off like a Dateline special on minister Cotton Marcus, who sells himself more as a comedian than a minister as he slips a recipe for banana bread into his sermon without the parish realizing it, showing the church’s blinding hold over its people and validating his own hucksterism about religion.  The set up makes an interesting news special, but the film wants a “found footage” sense to it, and yet after the introduction on Marcus, there’s rarely a shot that actually feels like someone just filmed it.

 

These kinds of movies are meant to feel authentic, natural, and real in a supernatural setting.  It’s what intensified the fear in films like The Blair Witch Project.  You should be able to buy into in what’s going on even if there are demons or monsters, but the film barely gives you the chance to accept this reality, especially during the two exorcism scenes.  The first one alternates between the bedroom where the ritual is being performed and the van where Cotton shows the nifty gadgets he uses for the hoax.  The second one, the big confrontation, cuts from person to person with multiple camera positions despite the fact that there is only one cameraman, hindering the natural realism this movie is intended to mimic.

 

The plot is just as problematic as Stamm tries to blindside the issues with a few curve balls and succeeds only in losing the focus of the narrative, but audience’s patience as well .  He keeps you guessing a little bit as he plays with the idea of whether or not the situation is actually real, but in the last act, he crashes the two possibilities together into a train-wreck of an ending.  Not two minutes after the film decides to go one way, it completely flips around and finishes with a reveal that only shocks by how absurd it is.

 

The Last Exorcism is marketed as another horror documentary, but the sloppy camera work, uninspired cutting, and ridiculously plotted storyline shows that Stamm was unable to make any sense out of this  mess.  In the hands of somebody who comprehends the appeal of the genre, this could’ve been the Cloverfield of exorcism movies, submerging you into an unreal situation and being terrified by whatever happens next.  Instead, the Last Exorcism is a piss-warm beer that leaves you desperately trying to wash the taste out of your mouth when it’s over.

The King’s Speech

Posted by ron On April - 21 - 2011


In a prude nation like England speak only when spoken to, be discreet, and never waste a word when only one will do.

At one point or another, every one has had to deal with speaking in front of an audience and if you remember distinctly, how the weight of one sentence generated so much anxiety never mind, it felt like an eternity to finish. The source of anxiety was the key to the riddle of George VI’s stuttering issues in the King’s Speech directed by Tom Hooper. With a brother who abdicated the throne for a divorced socialite and a Second World War on the horizon, George VI (Colin Firth) has a problem. He can’t seem to get his words out when it counts most. When all else failed, unorthodox practitioner Lionel Logue (Geoffrey Rush) was called in to work on his phonetic enunciation.

The King’s Speech took place during a fascinating time when socializing between the classes in England was very uncommon. One could be thrown in prison for merely calling a Royal Family member by the vernacular. Radio was the only methodology to reach every corner of the country. The purpose, description of the event, and structure of the words meant every thing in terms of getting the nation to support a cause. Perhaps there was no more important message than that of asking a country to go to war and trust in one man.

The relationship between George VI and Lionel Logue wasn’t so much an actual depiction but an allegory of trust issues between the classes. Neither man respected each other despite very formal pleasantries. Sometimes more is less in terms of the quality of life that each man held. After King George VI took the throne, he came home to find out his private life had changed forever when his children chose to curtsey instead of running to his open arms for a hug in his own home. Family life became as much a business as Royal life. Mr. Logue never had such problems as displaying public affection but he certainly enjoyed torturing George VI whenever he had the opportunity. In politics, no one is devoid of ego and that goes double for any citizen who loved to defend their apathy towards their country. This movie was effective in portraying that the problems and distrust between ‘them and us’ was never anything recent, just subtler.

Today speech is a lost art form especially with the advent of video. A person can appear to be a complete mess of a speaker but pan to show his assets and suddenly speech doesn’t matter. Speech should matter because it is a reflection of the handle and control over not only yourself but more importantly the use of the language to communicate an idea.

If I had to rate the King’s Speech, I have to describe it with a rich, full-bodied red wine full of class, dignity, and respect.

Cheers,
Ron

Blue Valentine

Posted by ron On April - 17 - 2011


The best of intentions can often lead to some harsh lessons in life and love.

When the usher at the Village East Cinema actively warned every person who bought a ticket for Blue Valentine not to see this movie with your significant other, an overwhelming feeling of Caveat Emptor washed over every cinemaphile in the vicinity.

Serendipity was a cruel muse in Derek Cianfrance’s Blue Valentine. It’s a story about how two people fall in love but ultimately end up miserable. The film plots two starting points in time that ultimately converge at a point where the two individuals played by Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams simultaneously marry and divorce. If the brief synopsis sounded generic, it was. Plots in romantic films are rarely innovative. Judging from the rate of divorce society hasn’t been learning from its mistakes. In fact, one would argue more people are falling out of love than ever before. However, it’s not so much where the story in Blue Valentine began or its predictable ending but rather the contrast of temperature generated by the two acting powerhouses in each forthcoming scene in one moment in time juxtaposed against the other moment in the time line.

Due to the quality of acting, Blue Valentine created its own category that was equal parts love story and horror film, not of the Fatal Attraction variety but more of one that made anyone unlucky in love re-visit the demons of past tortured relationships and reopened a few old wounds in the process. Both Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams challenged themselves to create believable compelling characters that are naïve by no fault of their own. Dean (Gosling) was a free spirit who never had an agenda in life. He hoped to get by in life with good looks and clinging to his idealistic vision of love. He was forced out of his comfort zone and into the role of committing to something that he would later leave unfulfilled. Cindy (Williams) fell for Dean’s humor and dreamer mentality but it’s clear she never really loved him. She just felt guilty when he was beaten to a pulp by her ex-boyfriend for their affair. When Cindy found out she was pregnant, she went to Dean without ever really finding out who the father was. It’s a moment of great personal sacrifice and serious contemplation. As the couple aged, the wear and tear of being parents and struggling took its toll. Her compromises and having lived with Dean’s complacency and drinking drove her mad. Cindy didn’t become her parents but lived a nightmare worse than even she could have imagined.

Through their performances, the film never tried to rationalize why people fall in love or do the things that they do. Emotions cannot be rationalized, thus the complexity in spontaneity with human nature. The only thing that can be measured in a relationship is cause and effect. Certainly these two well-intentioned individuals weren’t exactly honest with themselves or each other when they signed up for marriage. It’s brutal honesty and heartbreaking in a way that Chinua Achebe, author of Things Fall Apart would shed a tear.

If I had to rate Blue Valentine, I’d give it a well aged, Scotch with a lot of personality and familiarity that is hard to swallow but good to the last drop.

Cheers,
Ron

Sucker Punch

Posted by ron On April - 17 - 2011


Emily Browning aka Babydoll stares into the abyss of her mind or is that the inglorious mess of this movie?

Five anonymous young ladies with nicknames you might expect to get lap dances plot to escape from an asylum in Sucker Punch. Like something out of Mathew Barney’s Cremaster Cycle, Zach Snyder manifested his own multiple worlds within one body as the ultimate forbidden planet for fan boys. From the mind of one imprisoned girl, young sexpots in costumed high heels fought 10ft samurais, robots, a zombie Kaiser, and a dragon. Unfortunately, all these fictional food groups from so many genres of geekdom were randomly shuffled into a linear format reminiscent of standardized video gaming. When the impact of the reality didn’t measure up to the fantasy, the CGI spell was shattered and left behind a cathartic unidentifiable mess of a movie.

Director Zach Snyder has always had an eye for rich, captivating visuals that were capable of creating awe. Complemented with strong source material, he’s able to navigate a story and at least observe the traffic lights that serve as transition points in character development. The direction in Sucker Punch more closely resembled the Lindsay Lohan School of Driving. Intoxicated with imagery, he ran too many red lights, and went off the bridge of no return. Unfortunately, his 7th feature film served as a cautionary tale when a box office name brand was allowed to run wild without any inhibitions. With Man of Steel, Zach Snyder has raised the stakes even higher and one wonders how does Warner Brothers feel about him directing one of their flagship characters?

Unlike the Usual Suspects, there’s no source or reference for the wild imagination a little girl who lived in a house more closely resembling the Adams Family in what looks to be some time before 8 tracks were replaced by cassettes. So where do the ideas for all these creatures and imagery come from in Baby doll’s mind? Never mind that. Why wouldn’t a girl sentenced to lobotomy by her stepdad, fantasize about getting revenge? In an asylum where molestation and rape of women seemed implied, one has doubts that its victims imagine themselves as burlesque combat machines.

This film aimed to encourage empowerment and fighting for control over your life as a defenseless girl but the themes were an afterthought after it was revealed Baby Doll (Browning)’s doorway into the fantasy world was performing a shimmy that entranced her victims. As the dance number distracted them, the other girls could carry out their plan to escape. Fortunately Snyder spared the audience from watching a barely legal girl dance provocatively in front of the slimiest men caught on film.

Note to the producers of Sucker Punch, in order to make a successful movie you’re going to need 5 things:
1. Plot
2. Screen play
3. Direction
4. Acting
5. Ativan
For movie lovers everywhere, you might need a prescription of Valium before indulging this painful mess of a movie.

If I had to rate Sucker Punch, I’d give it a Four Loko Red Bull suicide note.

Cheers,
Ron

Rango

Posted by sean On April - 5 - 2011

“We were somewhere around Barstow, on the edge of the desert, when the drugs began to take hold…”

The Old West has its mythic gunslingers such as Wyatt Earp, Billy the Kid, and Jesse James, but now, another name can be added to that list.  His name: Rango.  As the most unusual character to wear a ten-gallon hat, Rango, a method-acting chameleon, takes you on a thrilling, hilarious quest way over his scaly, delusional head.

 

Director Gore Verbinski’s animated feature follows the title character (voiced by Johnny Depp) through the barren desert after his glass tank falls out of a car.  From the moment Rango realizes his hostile predicament, the film delivers plenty of laughs with slap-stick gags and referential humor in the form of hallucinations and a cameo by Depp’s friend and former role, Hunter S. Thompson (Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas).  There is also a disparity in the age-level of humor as it’s anchored by Western images and dialogue consisting of diction that few children will get.  It’s not necessarily a flaw that the film’s aim is skewed more towards grown-ups, but anyone under the age of ten won’t understand words like “prostate” used in some of the quick one-liners, nor will they realize how many Westerns are given homage to, playing on the nostalgia of an older generation.

 

 

Once Rango stumbles upon the town of Dirt and its animal inhabitants, the lizard puts on a façade of a western badass, selling himself to the townsfolk as something he’s not.  The film lingers on this build-up of lies with the audience anticipating for it all to collapse, but before Rango follows a predictable path, Verbinski pushes the film into unforeseen territory with exhilarating gunfights and aerial battles.  Half-way through the second act, the film jettisons forward like a rollercoaster in the desert with adventurous set-pieces that trump most of what Hollywood has offered lately with its live-action blockbusters.  When the film takes a break from the gunfire, it plunges head-first into a surrealistic fairytale through trippy moments of epiphany more creative and entertaining than any drug-based comedy.

 

The biggest highlight of the film lies within the gorgeous animation.  Standing toe-to-toe with Pixar, the vast color palette and fine details give life to each character as they bask in the desert lighting.  Close-ups revel in the most minute features from the scales on Rango’s face to the dry mud in a prospector’s fur.  The character designs are also exceptionally unique, playing on the tropes of the Old West and blending them with the most unusual critters you’ll find chilling at a saloon, from an outlaw gila monster and his reptilian posse silencing everyone with their entrance to the town-drunk turkey getting thrown out of the bar.  There are even a few characters that may appear gruesome or frightening, such as the menacing Rattlesnake Jake with his demon-red eyes and malicious slithering.

 

Verbinski delivers a heaping plate of cinematic enjoyment with the twisted world of Rango, making the film a refreshing ice-cold beer in the desert sun.  It’s dirty and beautiful at the same time, a mesmerizing combination on the foundation of a familiar, yet quirky plot that remains head and shoulders above the majority of animated features released in the past few years.

-Sean

Black Swan

Posted by ron On March - 28 - 2011


Are you crazy is that your problem? Maybe but crazy is often beautiful.

There were no surprises, plot twists or clever ruses in Darren Aronofsky’s Black Swan. Simply put, it was a character study chronicling the downward spiral of a young woman’s sanity in the ultra competitive world of ballet. If you’ve ever had any experience with athletics, you can certainly relate to the heavy abusive rituals that Nina Sayers (Natalie Portman) endured on a daily basis in her quest for artistic perfection. From the movie’s start, it’s painfully apparent ballet can never be a recreational activity, it’s an all consuming mistress with a stop watch who will take second place from no one.

Unfortunately perfection has its price. The very unpredictable Thomas Leroy (Vincent Cassel) has final say in who dances to his beat in the Black Swan play. Much to Nina’s delight, the lead is hers to lose but on the condition that she would do whatever Mr. Leroy says. As his demands are raised so did Nina’s stress level.

Enter Nina’s rival played by Mila Kunis. Kunis’ free spirit without a care or consequence was the anti-thesis of Nina’s approach to life and the perfect foil for her own downfall as her darker half takes over.

Darren Aronofsky mastery over his craft was also a feat of perfection. The camera work, editing, sound, and execution of the script was every bit of the White Swan: Form and function. The suspense, seduction, and disturbing horrific self destruction of human fragility was his Black Swan. Together, it’s no surprise that this film had received so many nominations. Not since Jodie Foster and Jonathan Demme has an actress and director duo been so insync. Portman didn’t just convince us of White and Black sides of her soul but the most important part, the painful transformation. It’s the transition scenes that really raised the stakes and invested our fears and hopes for Nina.

If I could rate Black Swan with a beverage of choice, it’s easily a fine wine that’s just going to get better with age. Cheers.

Durarara

Posted by sean On March - 9 - 2011

Anime has garnered a huge following in the West since the first shows were brought over in the Sixties, beginning with Astro Boy and Speed Racer.  Fifty years later, anime shows are still being brought over and translated for American audiences, the newest of which is Durarara, based on a light novel/manga series.  Revolving around a multitude of colorful characters, from simple high school students to mythological beings, Durarara tries to weave dozens of arcs to create an entertaining story but gets tangled up along the way.

 

Durarara is eerily similar to ABC’s Lost through its sense of mystery, its journey into the supernatural, but most of all, its narrative structure.  Made up of character-focused episodes, Durarara takes place in Ikebukuro, Tokyo as freshman Mikado Ryūgamine transfers to a local school at the invitation of his old friend, Kida Masaomi.  In the first episode, Kida gives Mikado a grand tour of the city, telling him about the gangs and the who’s-who of area, along with the urban legend of a headless biker, the Black Rider.  From there, the lives of over a dozen characters intertwine due to a series of attacks on city citizens connected to corrupt companies, secret gangs, and ancient myths.

 

It takes the first five or six episodes to do what the pilot should’ve done in introducing this world.  By attempting to flesh out each character in their own episode(s), the story gets spread so thin that you will finish a third of the series before you get a firm grasp on one of the main plots.  Luckily, with the show running at only twenty-four episodes, the plotlines get less drawn out from there, but that circles back to the problem of too many characters.  Some who are given too much screen time suddenly become irrelevant and disappear without tying up all of their loose ends.  At the same time, characters you want to see more often, like the violent bartender Shizuo or Russian sushi-chef Simon, are given a scene here or there without any further exposure of their back-story.

 

On the upside, Durarara juggles the drama and humor very well once it gets the ball rolling.  The different plotlines stem from reality-based problems such as gangs and teenage love while splicing in supernatural forces from Japanese and Celtic mythology, and like any youth-based story, there are plenty of laughs and light-hearted moments.  These are nice touches that never seem overbearing to the series as the story, deep down, is about the characters and their progression through a less-than-ordinary life.  As for the animation, it’s slick and vibrant in its use of colors.  It may not be like Akira or other anime where every crack or shadow is detailed to convey a sense of realism, but the artwork is stunning to look at most of the time and captures the feel of the city and its inhabitants.

 

Durarara drags at first, but then it sprints at the end, leaving behind the feeling that maybe one day the series will wrap up the story arcs it left open.  Minus the setbacks, it is a quick, cold beer for being a show that anime fans can enjoy without the worry being disappointed after several years of commitment.

 

Part 1 is now on DVD and Part 2 will be released on March 29, followed by Part 3 on May 31.

-Sean

True Grit

Posted by sean On February - 11 - 2011


He may be half-blind and drunk, but the Dude still has perfect aim.

I’m not a fan of Westerns. Growing up, I often caught bits and pieces of films and shows set in the Old West whenever my dad was watching them, and never did I develop any interest. Hot, barren deserts and rough-riding cowboys held little of my short attention span as a child when juxtaposed with my DVD collection of action, sci-fi, and fantasy. As I got older, I avoided Westerns at all costs, even when I developed a passion for learning about film. The slow, boring impression instilled in me kept me from ever wanting to see classics like Sergio Leone’s films and any others crafted in the same gritty vein, and even to this day, I can count with one hand how many Westerns I’ve seen in their entirety. Yet because of this limited contact with the Western genre, True Grit surprised me so much. As a fan of the last collaboration between Jeff Bridges and the Coen’s in The Big Lebowski and an appreciator of the brothers’ crisp, gritty cinematic style in their darker films like No Country for Old Men, I decided to give True Grit a chance. What I witnessed was a film that not only anyone and everyone should see, especially Western-naysayers, but one that also defies the contemporary notion that remakes are crap riding on the name of a superior predecessor.

The Coen brothers took a big risk in remaking what is considered to be a Western classic that gave John Wayne his only Oscar. The film follows fourteen-year-old Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld) in a blood hunt for her father’s killer, Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin), and after purchasing the services of U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn (Jeff Bridges), they trek into the wilderness with Texas Ranger LaBoeuf (Matt Damon) tagging along. The moment they enter the wild, the Coen brothers make it clear that the frontier is not some light-hearted place of adventure. Taking the “Unforgiven” approach, they dismantle whatever ideas you have of the West by turning it into a cold-hearted terrain that will never acknowledge your existence should you be unfortunate enough to perish out there. The best example of this is when Cogburn doesn’t bother seeking help for an injured man because there isn’t any.

Good and evil is another concept that the Coens place in the gray area. Cogburn isn’t some admirable, legendary lawman; he’s worn out, drunk, and just as eager to shoot somebody as the outlaws he’s put down. Not even the law is as concrete as Mattie believes. Despite her obsessive vendetta, she clings onto the principle of law and fairness as though she’s hanging off a ledge, and yet she rarely lets herself appear vulnerable to how cruel the world can be. On the other hand, the criminals aren’t completely sadistic and cutthroat. Chaney behaves like a child without guidance, and when something doesn’t go his way, he lashes out in the only way he knows how. Yes, he is bad, but it’s a small trait like this that allows the audience to connect a little, maybe even sympathize, with the so-called “villains.”

This reality of the genre is made even more profound by the cinematography, done by Roger Deakins (The Shawshank Redemption, No Country for Old Men). Each shot captures the coldness of the frontier with a sense of beauty and gloom thanks to the real locations that allow the actors to anchor themselves in. As for the performances, Jeff Bridges shines in the role that John Wayne called his own. He recites his dialogue with a gruff mumble that, while is sometimes hard to understand, carries how tattered and bitter he is. Matt Damon is decent as Leboeuf, a lawman who can’t help but show off his title, whether by his shiny badge or his loud spurs. He’s a bit animated at times when he’s debating with Mattie or Cogburn, but he balances that out with some humility, especially after surviving a run in with a few outlaws. However, it’s newcomer Hailee Steinfeld as Mattie who stands out the most. With the film telling her story and not Cogburn’s, Steinfeld seizes every chance she gets to dominate the screen as a girl with a strength and temperament beyond her years. She floors everyone she encounters with her stature and delivers her dialogue so sharply that you feel that Aaron Sorkin might have written her.

True Grit is more than just a great Western; it’s a great film. All of the pieces that went into it, from the thematic elements to the performances, worked perfectly together. In honor of Rooster Cogburn’s favorite drink, True Grit is a bottle of hard whiskey. It’s dark and unapologetic, but even if it’s not your cup of tea, you won’t regret the journey it takes you on.

-Sean

The Town

Posted by sean On December - 20 - 2010


Ben Affleck and Jon Hamm have a lovely conversation about the Red Sox in an interrogation room.

Ben Affleck fooled us all. For the past decade, we’ve all made fun of his career choices after his critical success on Good Will Hunting, but he was just biding his time and learning how to craft a great film. With his second directorial outing after Gone Baby Gone, Affleck delivers a strong heist film in The Town, taking familiar tropes from the genre and injecting them with a heavy dose of adrenaline and carrying them out with amazing performances.

Affleck, pulling double-duty behind and in front of the camera, plays Doug MacRay, the leader of a band of thieves from Charlestown, an area in Boston riddled with poverty and armed robberies. He decides to turn his life around after falling for a bank manager, Claire Keesey, (Rebecca Hall) who he and his disguised crew took hostage during a job and then released. When his crew suspects that Claire can identify them to the FBI, Affleck keeps you drawn in not just with the action but also the quieter moments. Driven by the question of whether or not Claire will learn the truth, MacRay befriends her to assess the situation but finds himself caught up with her vulnerability and innocence. The tension thickens in one scene when the two have lunch and MacRay’s trigger-happy friend (played by Jeremy Renner) shows up. You feel MacRay’s anxiety increase due to his friend’s volatile nature and his tattoo that Claire could recognize from the crime. In other parts, Affleck uses what he inherited from the directors he’s worked with to craft gripping scenes like shootouts and car chases through the labyrinth alleys of Boston. Films like Takers or the Bourne movies use choppy editing and the shaky cam to the point of creating blurs, but Affleck keeps the camera tight on the action without distorting the image with epileptic shaking to look more intense.

In front of the camera, Affleck pulls off a great portrayal as MacRay, a character conflicted with loyalties and personal issues. Even though he’s a criminal, his charm and rough upbringing allow you to understand his situation. Rebecca Hall carries a naive disposition as Claire while being deeply traumatized by her hostage experience, delivering both very well. Her own personality mixed with Affleck’s feels genuine and you honestly want things to work out for them. Backing up Affleck as his best friend, Jeremy Renner plays James Coughlin, matching the level of talent he displayed in The Hurt Locker. He’s dangerous, unpredictable, and always itching to pull the trigger on someone, and you’re never at ease when he’s onscreen even when he’s unarmed. Breathing down the their necks is FBI agent Adam Frawley, played by Jon Hamm, who brings much of his Don Draper persona with a no-bullshit prowess in hunting down the thieves. With the law backing him up, Hamm is just as ruthless and unswerving as the criminals by using underhanded tactics in his pursuit. He’s not a corrupt cop, but when juxtaposed with Affleck’s Doug, Hamm’s character is not someone you empathize with because of his lack of depth. In fact, nothing is given to Hamm, leaving him as more of a force of justice than a complex character audiences can connect with.

In our rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer, The Town is an ice cold lager with a shot of whiskey for its amazing cast and action, and as Affleck’s second time in the director’s chair, it shows that he knows what goes into a film and can make it a gripping experience.

- Sean

Psychic (초능력자)

Posted by sean On December - 11 - 2010


“We should never have met,” Cho-in tells a bloodied Gyu-nam after putting him through hell.

Picture yourself with the power to control people just by looking at them. Now picture yourself meeting the only person you can’t control and going bat-shit insane over it. Choneung-Ryukja (Psychic, or sometimes as Haunters) is a Korean film about a battle between two men that delivers a psychological thrill-ride that eventually wanes by trying too hard to be an action movie.

The film focuses on Cho-in, who has the ability to control people with his gaze, and Gyu-Nam, an honest man who’s the foil to Cho-in’s world of control. Gyu-nam is the obvious protagonist while the former is the antagonist, but what the film does is paint each character with shades of gray. Cho-in is introduced as a child suffering from a prosthetic leg and an abusive father, and after his mother tries to kill him to spare him from his “curse,” he lives on his own, surviving off money he steals from small shops. This opens with a sympathetic view of his character that quickly gets overwhelmed by his willingness to kill anyone who gets in his way. This leads to his confrontation and subsequent fight with Gyu-nam when he tries to rob the pawn shop he works in, resulting in the death of his boss. What follows is a cat-and-mouse chase between the two as Gyu-nam seeks revenge, but as noble as his intentions are, the film constantly questions whether or not he should continue his pursuit. As one of his friends says in the film, it’s “[not so much] about fighting the man but the world the man controls,” and the more he fights it, the more people get hurt. Cho-in repeatedly blames the lives he takes on Gyu-nam, and as the movie progresses, there comes a point where you feel that there’s a bit of truth in his claims.

The battle against Cho-in’s power also creates some great tension. Whenever Gyu-nam takes a step forward in defeating the psychic, he’s suddenly hurled three steps back either through the disbelief of the police or through the risking of another life, but this match isn’t completely one-sided. The further they push each other, the harder Cho-in forces the world to do his bidding at the cost of his self-control. The more people he manipulates, the less mentally stable he becomes as he starts robbing large banks with security cameras and killing law enforcements. This back-and-forth exchange should keep you on the edge during the entire movie, but where the film falters is in maintaining its stance as a thriller. Instead, the suspense breaks in a few parts in the first two acts through the goofiness of Gyu-nam’s foreign friends, but while that serves as forgivable comic-relief, it’s the final act that conflicts with what the film set out to be. It switches from psychological to action-based in a shoot-out and a chase between a luxury car and a rusty van suped-up with NOS. The final confrontation afterwards returns to the mindgames, but the out-of-place epilogue nearly cuts its foundation off at its knees by forcing it into a whole different genre altogether.

So far, there are no plans to release this abroad, but hopefully that will change down the road. Psychic has a great concept with a good execution that’s undermined by how indecisive the film ends up being. In our three liquor rating of One Bourbon, one liquor, and one beer, Psychic is a glass of rice liquor watered-down by the lack of direction in the third act and a poor ending.

-Sean

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