I had very little idea what to expect with The Suspect. I have a rather narrow view of what a Korean movie might offer ... stylish gore and violence, mostly. But this turned out to be something different.
Not different as in “I’ve never seen anything like it,” but different as in “this isn’t Oldboy”. In fact, The Suspect is a fairly standard action spy thriller in the modern mode, a Korean version of the Bourne franchise, if you will. It’s pretty good at this, even if I wouldn’t recommend it as the first movie for viewers new to modern Korean films.
The plot is suitably complicated. I never understand these kinds of plots, anyway, and the Korean angle really threw me off. The Suspect has agents and double agents and whatever they call faux-double agents. But there is lots of border crossing ... the main character was a North Korean spy who ran into trouble when the new regime took over, which led to his escaping to South Korea, where he learns information that turns him into a weapon of vengeance. It’s assumed he’s a double agent, but in fact, he’s out for himself. He’s a defector, not a double agent. Meanwhile, the film shows a South Korea rife with corruption ... if there’s an ultimate bad guy, it’s the government, itself.
The Suspect goes on too long, but the defector, played by Yoo Gong, has charisma, and Hee-soon Park is also good as the man chasing the defector. Da-in Yoo turns the typical “let’s put a pretty girl in for eye candy” role into something more substantial ... she plays a journalist who is a key to exposing the corruption.
But the only real reason to see The Suspect is for the action scenes. And while there are some good ones, two stand head and shoulders above the rest. Both are car chases, which by now you’d think was an exhausted idea. But the first car chase marvels for 7+ minutes, and when a second car chase emerges late in the film, and you think they’ve already done this, they add just enough to make it an entertaining reprise. 7/10.