ContactSales: M-Line Distribution, Seoul ([email protected])
Theatrical release: South Korea, 29 Aug 2012.
Presented by TimeStory (SK), in association with Cinus Entertainment, Asia Investment, KTH, MStar Frontier, TNK Investment. Produced by Che Um (SK), in association with Zio Entertainment, Hong Ting Yingye Hanyi Wenhua. Executive producer: Kim Myeong-eun. Producer: Choi Yeon-ju.
Script: Kim Sang-myeong, Kim Hong-sun. Adaptation: Park So-hyeon. Idea: Kim Hong-sun. Photography: Yun Nam-ju. Editing: Shin Min-gyeong. Music: Kim Jun-seong. Art direction: Lee Bong-hwan. Costumes: Gwak Jeong-ae. Sound: Jang Ye-do. Action: Yu Sang-seop. Special effects: Yun Dae-won. Visual effects: Yuk Gwan-u (Digital Studio 2L).
Cast: Im Chang-jeong (Yeong-gyu), Daniel Choi (Lee Sang-ho), Oh Dal-su (Gyeong-jae/"Old Man"), Jo Yun-hui (Yu-ri), Jo Dal-hwan (Jun-shik, Yeong-gyu's associate), Jeong Ji-yun (Chae-hui, Sang-ho's wife), Lee Yeong-hun (Dae-ung, Yeong-gyu's young associate), Shin Seung-hwan (Dong-bae), Choi Il-hwa (Cheol-su), Kim Jae-hwa (Gong Chun-ja, the female courier), Lee Mun-su (Dr. Oh), Heo Jun-seok (victim in prologue), Go Jeong-il (customs officer), Yun Sang-ho (boat crew member), Song I-ju (Inspector Jang), Park Se-yeong (Min-su), Park Seong-taek (Choi), Park Il-mok (office head), Gong Jeong-hwan (Yong-cheol), Shin Hye-jeong, Ra Mi-ran (female couriers), Oh Sang-jin (police station officer), Son Jong-hak (company chairman).
Contemporary crime drama
2012, colour, 2.35:1, 110 mins
Directed by Kim Hong-sun (김홍선 | 金泓善)
By Derek Elley
Mon, 04 March 2013, 09:30 AM (HKT)
Out-there drama of double-dealing organ traffickers is watchable but overdoes its twists. Asian and genre festivals.
South Korea, 2007. A man (Heo Jun-seok) runs bleeding from below decks on a passenger boat from China to Incheon. He is pursued by organ-trafficker Yeong-gyu (Im Chang-jeong) and his longtime associate Yong-cheol (Gong Jeong-hwan), and in a fight both the man and Yong-cheol fall overboard. Three years later, Yeong-gyu has quit organ-trafficking and now, with his associate Jun-shik (Jo Dal-hwan), runs a drug-smuggling operation in the port of Incheon, using female couriers who transport drug-balls inside their bodies. He has a liking for boat ticket clerk Yu-ri (Jo Yun-hui), though she tells him she's not interested. Yu-ri's father urgently needs a heart transplant, but has been denied one by the hospital; in desperation she turns to underworld figure Dong-bae (Shin Seung-hwan), who offers to arrange one in the port city of Weihai, Shandong province, China, for ￦80 million (US$75,000). Meanwhile, Dong-bae invites Yeong-gyu to join him in an organ-smuggling scheme, so the latter can repay him some money he owes. Yeong-gyu refuses but, after Dong-bae scuppers one of Yeong-gyu's operations by informing the police, Yeong-gyu has no option but to join him in one last organ-trafficking job. He brings in eccentric alcoholic Gyeong-jae (Oh Dal-su), aka "Old Man", with whom he once worked. On board the ship, Yeong-gyu bumps into Yu-ri, who is taking her father to China for his operation. Also among the passengers on a romantic holiday to China are Lee Sang-ho (Daniel Choi), a salesman for LJ Life Insurance, and his wife Chae-hui (Jeong Ji-yun), confined to a wheelchair since being knocked down by a car. Yeong-gyu and his gang kidnap Chae-hui and take her to the ship's sauna, where Gyeong-jae is to extract her heart. Sang-ho gets little help from the ship's crew when he discovers Chae-hui is missing, and after bumping into Yu-ri asks her help in finding his wife. Meanwhile, as she lies on Gyeong-jae's improvised operating table, Yeong-gyu realises he has seen Chae-hui before.
Scoring high marks for originality but rather lower for believability, Traffickers 공모자들 (2012) still manages to remain watchable on a pulpy level thanks to brisk direction by writer-director KIM Hong-sun 김홍선 | 金泓善, a rich cast of male characters and the carefree way in which it careens from one unlikely situation to another. Making his feature debut after TV dramas, Kim can't be faulted for newness or ambition: making a crime drama about double-crossing organ traffickers whose second act is entirely set on a passenger boat and third act has exteriors shot in the port of Weihai, Shandong province, China. Despite some dodgy Mandarin dialogue, and an even dodgier finale that almost spins out of control, Traffickers is okay entertainment that doesn't take its plentiful helpings of cartoony gore and male posturing too seriously.
The main problem is the script, which in its first half-hour presents a whole raft of characters without providing much background, throws them together on a boat for a game of hide-and-seek between some clandestine surgery, and then starts throwing in multiple flashbacks as soon as the boat reaches China to explain what really happened during the first hour. It's a bold structure that isn't wrong per se; but Kim and his two co-writers become so enamoured of their own cleverness in springing multiple surprises and twists-on-twists that the actual plot and characters become subsidiary to the footnotes. It's a trick that Kim — unlike, say, CHOI Dong-hoon 최동훈 | 崔東勳 (Tazza: The High Rollers 타짜 (2006), The Thieves 도둑들 (2012)) — has yet to master. Just when it seems all is said and done, another chunk of information is hurled at the viewer in a TV reporter's wrap-up, plus a final-final-final capper during the end credits. Phew.
Leaving aside the fact that the audience is asked to believe that (a) full-scale heart surgery can be done in secret in a passenger boat's sauna, (b) South Korean crew don't seem to care when a passenger goes missing and (c) organ traffickers can just walk into Chinese hospitals, the cast manages to keep the movie motoring. IM Chang-jeong 임창정 | 任昌丁, the hopeless gangster in Miracle on 1st Street １번가의 기적 (2007) and lovelorn student in Sex is Zero 색즉시공 (2002), remains engaging in a totally unsympathetic role that starts off as a tough guy and morphs into a kind of softie hero. TV pinup Daniel CHOI 최다니엘 (the nervy fund manager in Cyrano Agency 시라노; 연애조작단 (2010)) begins like a lead in a romantic drama but shows more spine later when he takes his glasses off. Between the two are several colourful, Korean gangster types, led by JO Dal-hwan 조달환 but eclipsed almost single-handedly by character actor OH Dal-su 오달수 | 吳達庶, who adds another superbly sleazy creation to his offbeat gallery — here an alcoholic, underworld surgeon. The female cast doesn't get much of a look-in, with cute lead actress JO Yun-hui 조윤희 (Happy Together 동거, 동락 (2007)) never quite seeming to engage with the rest of the film.
D.p. YUN Nam-ju 윤남주 (Epitaph 기담 (2007)) brings a realistic look to the largely unrealistic shennanigans, with plenty of rapid-fire visuals in exterior action scenes. The Korean title means Conspirators.