The 2013 South Korean action/thriller The Suspect (용의자) by director Won Shin-yeon (Seven Days) is similarly themed to the 2013 South Korean film Commitment. Here, as in Commitment, the story revolves around a defector from North Korea who is hunted down in the South, and numerous chases, fight scenes, and plot twists ensue.
In the days leading up to the death of Kim Jong-il, anyone seen as a threat is killed off, including the loyal spy and assassin Ji Dong-cheol’s (Gong Yoo) wife and daughter. He defects to the South and finds himself embroiled in a murder investigation after he goes to visit an old mentor from the North and interrupts his assassination. The intelligence agencies of South Korea are all hunting Ji down, and so is an inquisitive female reporter named Choi (Da-in Yoo) who has been investigating him for a while and doesn’t believe he is the murderer everyone claims him to be. While Ji tries to find the man responsible for killing his wife and daughter, with the surprising help of Choi, he also helps uncover a conspiracy that seems to reach way up to the highest levels of intelligence, making his time on the run even more crucial, and his capture even more important.
The Suspect is at its best when it leaves the conspiracies behind and allows itself to revel in the action – the car chases, the fight sequences, the gunplay. The deeper machinations in the story become a bit convoluted, especially revelations about Ji’s daughter and the man who killed him, a secret information exchange between the North and South and so forth.
It’s generally well filmed, although it does tend toward the gritty look, but the choreography of the fight sequences is superb, and Gong Yoo pulls them off effortlessly.
The Suspect was shot in high definition on the Red Epic using Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo lenses in 4K with some action sequences being shot digitally on the Canon EOS 1D-C with Canon EF Cinema and L-Series lenses. The Blu-ray from Well Go USA arrives with an AVC 1080p encodement that can at times look overwhelmingly gritty and noisy. The image is definitely pushed to the limits of the technology, although there are some moments where we get some clear detail and texture and issues like black crush or banding are not a problem.
The Korean DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (48kHz/16-bit) mix is very engaging during the numerous action sequences, spreading the sounds of gunshots or tires screeching around the room, however it’s a bit tweaked in the higher frequencies and the low end is somewhat boomy and out of balance. The mix also tends to go a bit quiet and dry for extended periods, leaving the surround channels nearly silent, rather than filling them with natural atmospherics. A Korean Dolby Digital 2.0 mix is also included.
There’s nothing much on this disc at all. We get only the original Theatrical Trailer (2.35:1; Korean Dolby Digital 5.1; 1080p/24; 00:01:33) plus additional Well Go USA trailers. That’s it.
The Definitive Word
The Suspect takes a familiar theme in South Korean films, the wanted defector from the North, and makes an entertaining, but not wholly consistent film. The performances and action carry the day, but the story could use some tweaking.
Additional Screen Captures