Making your follow up to one of the most successful films in Korean history is always going to be a difficult task, Yeon Sang-ho’s “Train to Busan” was a surprise success for the director’s first live action film. Not just because it was a horror, but also the fact Korean directors rarely touch the zombie genre. So from the get go his sophomore live action film “Psychokinesis” had some fairly big shoes to fill. Did it live up to expectations? Disappointingly no.
The movie tells the story of lowly bank security guard Seok-Heon, who, after drinking some tainted water gains the ability to move objects with his mind. Comes in handy when that cigarette lighter is just out of reach. He is contacted by his estranged daughter after a tragic event who is struggling with more than just recent tragedy. Her restaurant is being absconded by a greedy construction company, backed by an organised crime gang who want to develop the area. Seok-Heon then joins the fight to save her restaurant and its surrounding businesses, all the while trying to come to grips with his new found abilities and repair the broken relationship with his daughter.
Taking a seemingly familiar tale of a man trying to make up for lost time and repair a damaged relationship with his child, and mixing it with the action genre is nothing new to cinema. But through excellent acting and story telling, there are moments of genuine heart that makes it feel less forced than most others who have attempted. Throughout the film, Seok-Heon’s road to redemption from a lazy and selfish oaf to super hero moves along at a steady pace, but his relationship with his daughter takes a fair bit more work then he thought. He doesn’t always necessarily help his cause, but through his actions, he slowly begins to win her over.
Technically speaking, the film performs quite well. With Byun Bong-sun at the helm, the cinematography feels very accomplished with some great shots and well filmed action sequences. Due to the subject matter, there is a heavy reliance on effects, both practical and computer generated, but this is handled quite well with some entertaining scenes being created. I feel the talent of the crew makes it seem like a much more expensive film then its budget should allow.
This is all backed by an excellent cast including Ryu Seung-ryong (Miracle in Cell no 7) as our protagonist, Shim Eun-kyung (Miss Granny) as his daughter and Jung Yu-mi (Silenced) as the smiling yet feared boss of the construction company. Yeon Sang-ho seems to enjoy using the same actors, as all three have appeared in previous work (‘Train to Busan’, ‘Seoul Station’). It’s not hard to see why, as all played their respective roles brilliantly, especially Jung Yu-mi as the cheerful psychopath.
My initial statement may seem odd, considering the glowing review I’ve given the film. But although there are so many achievements, the movie seems to fall just short of the mark. If this had of been released prior to “Train to Busan”, then maybe it would be a different story. But when you make what is one of the most revered zombie films in recent history, the expectation for your follow up is going to be pretty high. This is why “Psychokinesis” doesn’t quite live up to the hype. It’s not a fault of the movie itself, which is by all accounts an enjoyable action/comedy, it’s just that, once you make something as well received as “Train to Busan”, you’d need to make “Oldboy” or “Ran” as a follow up. Yeon Sang-ho’s success is what is his demise with this film. I’d still highly recommend this movie, I guess I’d just suggest to watch this one as the first in his filmography.