AFI Fest: V.I.P.

AFI Fest’s Midnight Section is always good for giving you a twisty crime drama and this year that slot is occupied by V.I.P. a Korean thriller directed by Hoon-jung Park. V.I.P. starts out with a man known as Agent Park coming to Hong Kong to meet with an American CIA Agent. He leaves the meeting and proceeds to shoot up an apartment building. Who is he looking for and why is he so vicious about it? Well, we’ll find out as the film jumps back 5 years and 3 years into the past to show how the son of a politician, who is also a serial killer, manages his reign of terror, even when dedicated police officers and agents are on his case.

As I mentioned earlier, V.I.P. is a twisty film that is reliant upon your absolute attention, lest you miss one crucial piece of information and become adrift. For that, it earns it’s intrigue. You want to know how the story is going to turn out and the movie just keeps drilling down when you think there’s no where left to go.

However, V.I.P. also uses that attention against the audience, throwing so much on the wall to see which thread sticks, in an artful manner of course. This turns what would have been a thrilling movie into merely an entertaining one. There’s so much double crossing and new information brought up over the movie’s five chapters that you must hold onto your wig and hop you can absorb it all. The movie doesn’t help at all given the rough start (2 time jumps within 35 minutes???). Part of what made this movie confusing for me might just be my ignorance about extradition and the laws of North and South Korea, as well as Hong Kong. It was a bit of a struggle to figure out just what the stakes were for each of these entities that were competing for the prisoner, outside of the personal.

Now speaking of personal, this is where V.I.P. soars. All of the characters in this story and the actors that play them are working in tandem. I could watch an additional hour of these people just interacting in various capacities. Myung-min Kim in particular is a standout as the effective, but non-law abiding cop Chae Edo.

Watching this film and there are many interesting parallels that could be drawn. Most centrally for me was that the band of killers, led by a politician’s son (played dementedly by Jong-Suk Lee), and their similarities to the Droogs of A Clockwork Orange. These men, aided by the cover their station gives them, go around terrorizing people just for the hell of it. Particularly in today’s climate, this movie provides an intersting view on violence against women and how the systems of men often protect those that are guilty.

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