Park Hoon-jung is better known for writing the screenplays for “I Saw the Devil” & “The Unjust”. Although his directional debut “The Showdown” in 2011 was overlooked, he bounced back with “New World” in 2013 and “The Tiger: An Old Hunter’s Tale” in 2015. Both movies starred Chio Min-shik and were commercially successful. Now he returns with another crime thriller, which is also the third co-production of Warner Brothers and South Korea.
“V.I.P.” is a complete crime thriller concerning a North Korean serial killer who defected to the South and consequently was hunted by not only a North Korean agent, the local police and the National Intelligence Service but also the CIA. This killer is also the son of a high-ranking general from the North, accordingly making him untouchable since he can do whatever he pleases. With the help of his goons, they rape, torture their victims, drug them, taking photos and video of their acts, before killing them. During one incident, they kidnap a young school girl and butcher her whole family.
Kim Kwang-il, the V.I.P. serial killer son is played by Lee Jong-suk, a pretty boy and the most unlikely person one would think of as being a cold blooded serial killer. This actually turns out to be a plus, since, as we watch him performing his evil doings, we grow to hate him and want him to be caught or even killed in the process. With his cold stare and remorseless attitude, Lee does a great job in portraying a very disturbing, disgusting killer with extremely cruel methods of killing young girls.
Jang Dong-gun is in good form as the National Intelligence Service (NIS) agent Park Jae-hyuk. However, he looks very much like a suit wearing office nerd with glasses, gentle and obedient to his boss, very much the contrast to the tough guy field agent look we have come to accept of him. Peter Stormare is sufficient for his supporting role as the CIA agent Paul Gray. Both these agents crash with the local police every time they bring Kim Kwang-il in, not so much because of him being a suspect, but rather because the CIA needs his secret banking information.
Kim Myung-min plays the South Korean detective Chae Yi-do, whose team is to put Kim away for good. But he is always in conflict with the CIA and NIS while doing his job. He also smokes like a chimney, therefore we always see him with a cigarette hanging from his mouth, barking out orders and puffs of smoke. As if people going after the killer is not enough, we are introduced to another North Korean agent Ri Dae-bum (Park Hee-soon) who seems to live in the shadows but is equally eager to bring Kim back to the North.
There are hardly any female lead characters in “V.I.P.” The only time we see them, they are mainly portrayed as naked victims, being tortured and mutilated. Actually, the violence against female here is shot in a very shocking and brutal way and lingers on too long, therefore making it hard to watch. Apart from a very short action sequence at the end, “V.I.P.” is a very slow burn, talky movie which centers, mainly, on the struggle between men.
The direction of Park Hoon-jung is solid, the movie looks good and is above average. All the actors are good in their roles and the cinematography is top notch. Lee might seem miscast as the pretty boy psychopath killer with a smug, but he is intriguing and impressive just the same. As usual, the action scene comes from Jang Dong-gun when he storms a run-down building, very similar to his part in “No Tears for the Dead”.
Apart from the bad and frustrating English spoken between the CIA and NIC agents, “V.I.P.” is still a decent watch. However, if they toned down the unnecessary long scene showing violence against female, it would be a much friendlier spy and serial killer movie.