DVD: The Attorney, directed by Yang Woo-suk

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 04 October, 2014, 11:16pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 04 October, 2014, 11:16pm

The Attorney
Song Kang-ho, Im Si-wan, Kim Young-ae
Director: Yang Woo-seok

First-time director Yang Woo-seok has produced a layered and emotionally charged re-telling of the case that sparked the political awakening of future South Korean president Roh Moo-hyun. And what lifts the production far above the ordinary is its leading man, Song Kang-ho, who again offers the kind of performance that has made him one of the region's finest actors.

We pick up the action early in the life of Roh, as he sets out to make a name for himself in the port city of Busan as the 1970s draw to a close. The back story allows Song to flesh out a man both determined and charming but not without his faults.

Friends and colleagues of Roh's at the time were coming under sustained pressure from government forces driven by the paranoia of leader Chun Doo-hwan but the lawyer chose initially to focus his talents on turning a buck.

The first half of the film is light and amusing as Roh's character is established. All that changes when a group of students are arrested, imprisoned and tortured during a period when South Koreans were asking questions of their leaders.

The policy was to silence any dissent by all means necessary and Yang weaves in a personal connection between Roh and one of the kids to further fuel the character's motivation.

The violence inflicted on the students is vividly portrayed and the sense of frustration and growing moral outrage is illustrated most markedly in the court scenes where Song's talents take flight.

Given free rein, he charges around railing at the world and its many injustices, and the film takes pointed aim at the wrongs of Korean society at the time.

Yang doesn't break any new ground as the courtroom drama plays out, but whenever the film threatens to become too familiar, Song saves the day through the sheer force of the personality he is presenting.

It's a part of history that's not much discussed in South Korea, and one the wider world has never learned much about, so it's a brave effort from Yang and one that has been rewarded with awards and massive box office returns.

Extras: trailer, still photos