Film review: Real – South Korean heartthrob Kim Soo-hyun loses himself in interminable action thriller
Blade Runner meets The Matrix meets Cirque du Soleil in overblown, overly long, and nonsensical film that at times looks more like a cheap perfume ad than a high-concept thriller. The director’s first film, it could also be his last
Ambitious, misguided and altogether lacking in a coherent vision, Real is the first feature film directed by South Korean Lee Sa-rang, credited on-screen as “Love Lee”. Judging by the results here, it could be his last.
The plot revolves around a charismatic gangster (Kim Soo-hyun, from the hit TV series My Love from the Star), whose efforts to launch a luxury casino complex are complicated by rival crime networks and a mysterious doppelgänger. A fiercely addictive new drug is also thrown into the mix, but Real is so muddled and poorly executed that events quickly unspool into baffling nonsense.
From the film’s opening moments, it is obvious that director Lee intends this psychological crime opus to be some kind of mould-breaking masterpiece. However, presumably because nobody could talk him down from such lofty aspirations, Real comes in at an interminable 138 minutes.
The film wants to be a meditation on what it means to be human and how we can verify that our life experiences are genuine, but it lacks the intelligence to do so. Similarly, it attempts to criticise our obsession with beauty and material gain, but can’t articulate anything of value.
Above all, Real strives for the stylish and seductive look viewers see in the best of Korean cinema, but Lee has neither the artistic ability nor the discernment to pull it off.
The filmmaker’s primary influences appear to be Blade Runner, The Matrix and, bizarrely, Cirque du Soleil, but more often than not, Real resembles a cheaply executed perfume commercial rather than a high-concept action thriller. The result is an unbelievable film – in the worst ways imaginable.
Real opens on November 16
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