A Company Man

A Company Man
Director: Lim Sang-yoon
Year: 2012
Rating: 7.0

Korean corporations are legendary. If you give them total loyalty, you get loyalty in return. Over time you will move up the corporate ladder and reap the benefits. Hyeong-do is considered an asset to his company; following orders efficiently without complaint and the Chairman has great expectations for him. Upon a promotion he is taken out for a celebratory lunch by his male and female co-workers all tidy in their well-tailored suits. There is one small difference though between this company and other Korean companies - though to what degree may only be dependent on their product - and that is that every one of them is a professional killer - from the receptionist to the head. They take contracts and carry them out with beautiful team work. Their cover is that they make metal - shoot it is more the case - and they have as corporate an office as Samsung. Now how much director Lim Sang-yoon is making a political or satirical point about the Korean work ethic I don't know - but he makes a pretty solid action film in any case. There is a lot of action that is well-choreographed.

Hyeong-do though seems to be reaching a tipping point and begins to think about retiring. He manages one hit in which after it is done he is suppose to kill the hired help who is a youngster new to the business but with hopes. But he can't bring himself to do that and instead puts him into hiding and goes to take money from the boy to his mother (Lee Mi-yeon) who was once a popular singer years before. Now Hyeong-do commits another sin in the Assassin Handbook - he begins to fall in love with her and sees himself opening a café on the beach with her. You know where this is heading. The final confrontation that again may be satire but is played straight is pretty amazing. Talk about workplace mass severance.

My main problem with the film is the actor who plays Hyeong-do (So Ji-seob, winner of the New York Asian Film Festival's Rising Star Award). He looks like a graduate of a Boy Band on qualudes. He shows zero emotion throughout the film and says less than a lovestruck teen. This is of course pretty common in hitman films - morose and good looking - a winning combination. I expect this was at the behest of the director but as a viewer it is difficult investing much sympathy or interest in a character who seems to be bored all the time. But he is fine in the action scenes of which there are many.