Customer Reviews: The Suspect [Blu-ray]
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on May 11, 2014
So before I watched this movie I did a quick review search online. Most of the reviews I came across said things like, good movie but a little to long, or it would have been better if it was shorter. I completely disagree. I was turned on to this movie by a Korean friend of mine after mentioning how much I really liked Man from Nowhere (totally and completely worth the watch, available on Amazon Instant).


This movie is about a N. Korean special ops soldier who defected to the South after the regime change from Jung Il to Jung Un and the loss of his wife and child who had also defected to China. While in S. Korea Gong Yoo's character is a driver for another N. Korea defector and wealthy chairman. When the chairman is killed Gong Yoo is framed. This starts a nation wide man hunt for him and the revelation of several pivotal details not only about the murders he is being blamed for but the work of the chairman and the real story behind his wife and daughters death.

The movie takes great care to reveal truths and plot line in a consistent manner so you do not feel like you are getting it to fast or slow. It uses innuendo and nuance to promote a hidden story under the action packed intensity that I think was done with great skill. It is a little long but does not feel long when you are watching it. Surprisingly, or not so surprisingly when you think of the character he plays, Gong Yoo did very little speaking in this role. I have always loved his acting (watch the Kdrama Coffee Prince, incredible skills this man has) but this role was very different the what I am used to for this romantic comedy king. He pulls it off well and gives us a lovely bonus in the form of shirtlessness!

The supporting characters are colorful and the frenemy role of the S. Korean spy hunter was cast to perfection. There is some good on screen chemistry that makes the action packed story entertaining and even insightful. I would recommend this movie to Korean movie watchers, action/thriller junkies, martial arts lovers, and people just looking for a really good story to get into.
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In the past two decades, there have been some truly great pictures to come out of South Korea that have explored dramatically the political situation between the North and the South. In many of these cases, the stories have been more period pieces told with the backdrop of war; still in others, the movies have been cinematic observations on existing hostilities between the divided nation, and terrorism has emerged front and center. It’s a cultural reality that few of us (as Americans) can truly understand much less appreciate … but perhaps something like THE SUSPECT is what we need to make sense of it all.

Clearly, THE SUSPECT is more popcorn flick than it is biting social commentary. But it’s a popcorn flick done exceedingly well … and there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

(NOTE: The following review will contain minor spoilers necessary for the discussion of plot and/or characters. If you’re the kind of reader who prefers a review entirely spoiler-free, then I’d encourage you to skip down to the last three paragraphs for my final assessment. If, however, you’re accepting of a few modest hints at ‘things to come,’ then read on …)

From the production packaging: “Dong-chul (Gong Yoo) is the best field agent in North Korea – until he is abandoned during a mission, his wife and daughter missing. 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.”

This may sound a bit crass, but one of the political realities of the last century that the American motion picture complex benefitted from tremendously was the Cold War. The constant simmering tensions between the United States and the former Soviet Union provided a terrific political template for which storytellers could wrap their teeth around in order to produce compelling and dramatic motion pictures. Why? Well, it was pretty clear that there were two opposing forces – some folks simplify this by calling them ‘good vs. bad’ but I won’t here – and, when you have two opposing forces, practically everything that happens theatrically is necessarily going to heighten the conflict. Don’t let anyone ever tell you any different: conflict is required for great drama.

Thus, THE SUSPECT benefits from capitalizing on the tensions between North and South Korea by taking one man – Dong-chul – and essentially putting him smack dab in the middle of it: once the North abandoned him, he defected to the South … and, now that the South has set their sights on perhaps making him the bad guy, the spy-turned-driver has nowhere left to turn. All he can rely on is himself and perhaps the man who is his mortal enemy (a spy hunter for South Korea), a fellow who might end up being the last friend he has in the free world.

The story bobs and weaves almost as frenetically as the action does in this fast-paced actioner. Although Dong-chul has an axe to grind with his former homeland, all he really seeks to do privately is achieve a measure of personal vengeance; his quest, however, gets interrupted when he’s morally taxed with doing ‘the right thing’ to serve both nation’s interests, though he’ll be painted a criminal by North and South in the process. This puts him on-the-run constantly, never knowing when or if he’ll find an ally much less a safe place to lay his head.

THE SUSPECT at times suffers from action overkill. A few fight sequences are shot a bit too quick and tight (an uncomfortable trend for silver screen directors) so much so that it’s occasionally hard to discern who exactly is kicking the stuffing out of who. But that doesn’t lessen the fact that the movie has some of the best practical stunt work I’ve seen in quite some time; the car chases are particularly exciting, and it’s all given the kind of attention to detail most directors would die for. Albeit some folks might be put off by the film’s pace early on (it takes its time in establishing the various particulars and players, and this contributes to its 137 minute run-time), those who survive will likely be pleased by one of the purest actioners I’ve seen in some time.

THE SUSPECT (2013) is produced by Green Fish Pictures, Musa Productions, and Showbox/Mediaplex. DVD distribution is being handled by Well Go USA Entertainment, one of the best catalogues around. For those needing it spelled out perfectly, this is a Korean-spoken-language release with English subtitles available; there is no English-dubbed track. As for the technical specifications? Wow! Director Shin-yeon Won rarely lets up on the quality sights and sounds once they’re layered on, and the movie works a breakneck speed when it needs to. Lastly, if you’re looking for special feature, then let me prepare you for the disappointment: there aren’t any. A huge miss … but it is what it is.

HIGHEST RECOMMENDATION POSSIBLE. A slow beginning gives way to a brilliant realized action picture, one that clever balances the cultural and political realities of a modern day South Korea while underscoring that progress takes time. Once the characters are clear and you’re buckled up, THE SUSPECT roars at high speed through some of the best practical stunt work to hit the silver screen in quite some time. The ending layered on the happy-go-lucky charm a bit too thick, but everything else was more than pitch perfect.

In the interests of fairness, I’m pleased to disclose that the fine folks at Well Go USA Entertainment provided me with a DVD copy of THE SUSPECT by request for the expressed purposes of completing this review; and their contribution to me in no way, shape, or form influenced my opinion of it.
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on November 21, 2014
This is one of my favorite movies. It is just below man from nowhere. I love Gong Yoo and he definitely delivered! He was passionate and the movie keep you on suspense with twists. The only thing I have to complain about is the directing. At certain scenes, I was confused because of the shaky camera or the inexperience shooting style of action movies made it hard to follow and I wasn't sure who was throwing the punch. Other than that, very good movie! I took a risk buying the dvd without ever seeing it first. I just knew I love Gong Yoo so I had to get it! I'm an avid Korean drama fans and this is just a plus!
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon January 31, 2015
Meet Ji Dong Cheol (Yoo Gong) he is the best spy that those pesky North Koreans had. Then whilst out on a mission - and they really do carry out some bizarre missions including abductions etc., he returns home to find he has been betrayed by the country he was serving.

He gets to the South and finds work for an important Chairman of a company with shady dealings. The Chairman is murdered and Ji Dong is framed for the job. But also the Chairman gives him a final gift of a [air of spectacles and tells him to bury them. He then has to clear his name work out what the specs are all about and sort out his own internal demons.

This is a full on action fest with proper car chases and enough cars getting totalled to make a scarp dealers convention happy. There is loads of fist fighting and gun play but where this really scores is how it is all pulled together. The camera work is first class, there is no CGI and boy does it look better for it. The acting is great too, but you do get some exaggerated performances, but that is how it is done sometimes in Asian cinema. For Korean film fans there is a great reference to `Sympathy for Mr Vengeance' which was a nice touch and gives you some idea where they were aiming here. There are a few plot holes too but they are entirely forgivable in the context of just how good, entertaining and edge of the set it is. Simply a rollicking roller coaster of a film.
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on January 10, 2015
Yeppers, I love my Asian cinema movies and this Korean addition is no different, I love it. Wall to wall action and 99% of the time a wonderful story. Gong Yoo is the very misunderstood hero of the piece Don-Jul who was abandoned by his own in North Korea during a mission and then learned about his daughter being killed and goes on a vengeance rampage. He is wrongly accused of assassinating the "Chairman" not sure who that is but I digress, non stop action and fight scenes that are off the charts and God knows you are pulling for this silent hero all the way. He doesn't say much but he is a fine actor who gets the point across. Once again, another fine movie to come from the far east and one I'm sure some Hollywood hack will steal and ruin. The whole supporting cast including the cop who is in pursuit is wonderful.
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on August 30, 2015
Just watched this and it was fast, action packed and redeemed many failures I have watched recently

If you watched and liked Jason Borne and the raid series and are a fan of spy thriller movies this will not disappoint. It is by no means perfect but time flew by and for me keeping up with all the twists and turns was the only difficult part. I would write more normally but am too afraid of giving away any possible spoilers. but from beginning to end it was a fun ride.
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on February 2, 2016
One of the best car chase scenes (better than Popeye in the French Connection) and not a dull minute. I have vivid memories of Korea and several locations used were a real pleasure to see again after so many years; the steps were hard enough to walk up and down and shooting a car chase was a real gem. The acting was top notch; Korean movies are giving Hollywood a run for the money and I will spend my money gladly to watch movies as good as this.
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on January 6, 2016
All around good entertainment with very interesting finish scenes. True circles-within-circles plotting. I've found the most interesting plots and movies coming from Asia lately, more so, in fact than many Hollywood issues. They work at creating interesting aspects to their materials rather than just pumping out the same old, same old.
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on May 23, 2015
I love this movie. I am a big time action suspense movie junkie. I only recently discovered Korean action movies/tv like this one and I have become addicted. This movie has all the characteristics of the Hollywood made film. The acting is top notch and the story line is well thought out. I would highly recommend this movie to anyone who likes action and a good plot. Even if your new to foreign films you will not regret buying this movie.
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on August 21, 2014
Agree, Bourne facsimile, but still fun. Great fighting and driving scenes. Not sure what type of minivan he trashed in that driving sequence, but I'd buy one for durability alone! Who knew you could "self detonate" your drive air bag in a VW? Crazy.
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