After delving into the slightly sci-fi with his two-part The Witch series, director Park Hoon-jung returns to reality, replete with his penchant for incredibly bloody and memorable action sequences, with The Childe.
From the same man who wrote I Saw the Devil and created such incredible South Korean cinematic outings as New World and The Tiger, Hoon-jung’s latest follows the story of Marco (Kang Tae-ju), a down-on-his-luck boxer struggling to both make ends meet and collect the money needed for his mother to receive a life-saving surgery.
A Kopino living in the Philippines – his mother is Filipino and his father is Korean – Marco mostly earns his money by partaking in underground boxing matches. However, as his mother’s condition takes a turn for the worse, Marco realizes that his only hopes of funding her expensive surgery lies with his estranged father.
Setting out to find him, Marco discovers that his father is a very wealthy man living in Korea. Shortly thereafter, strange men arrive claiming that while his father was too sick to travel to meet him, he will pay for everything if Marco simply comes to meet him in Korea.
Marco quickly agrees, but thanks to being distracted by the whirlwind of family matters around him, he fails to realize that he’s now being hunted by a luxury-obsessed professional assassin, known only as the Nobleman (Kim Seon-ho), who wants to steal his father’s vast fortune.
It is this mysterious character, who is purposely unnamed throughout the only film, that not only makes The Childe entertaining, but separates it from Park’s other works.
Pursuing Marco in a brand new Mercedes while covered from head-to-toe in exquisite fashion, the Nobleman is equal parts overjoyed school child and deadly serious killer.
Flamboyant in his personality, fantastic in his laugh-out-loud delivery of humorous one-liners, and optimistic about his chosen profession, the always-smiling Nobleman is a different type of character than Park usually plays with.
For example, despite the fact that he hates getting blood or any sort of contaminant on his fancy possessions, at one point the Nobleman expressly tells his opponent, “See this? Look at it. I’m going to use it to carve your heart out.”
Adding to his character is the fact that he’s able to bounce back-and-forth between an American and British accent while speaking English, a surprising and esteemed accomplishment in and of itself.
Of course, the Nobelman still delivers his action scenes with a visceral intensity – the opening of the film sees him wipe out a cluster of forgettable thugs in a spectacle of blood-splattered violence – but it’s truly his dialogue that makes him memorable.
The character’s entire performance is made all the more impressive by the fact that The Childe is the feature film debut of both Kim and his leading co-star Kang Tae-ju.
As for the film’s story, it’s somewhat predictable to a certain degree.
By the time Marco sets foot in Korea, you’ll have a pretty good idea of where everything is headed.
However, while the destination may be foreseeable, Hoon-jung is able to weave an exhilarating tale filled with nail biting chase sequences, exquisitely tense detours, and fascinating characters, all of which work together to get you invested in Marco’s wild ride.
To this end, The Childe is essentially a non-stop montage of chase sequences that only presses on the brakes when an opportunity presents itself to strengthen its already bad-ass supporting cast.
Of particular note are Yun-ju (Go Ara), a mysterious woman who also wants to be the one to bring Marco to his father, and Director Han (Kim Kang-woo, Doomsday Book), the full-blooded Korean son of Marco’s father.
An entirely heartless individual, Director Han is the type of person that, despite being loyal to his family for decades, will sever ties with them via a shotgun blast to the chest all because they failed him on a single occasion.
Ultimately, The Childe continues the South Korean trend of refreshing character driven thrillers that are on completely different levels than the typical Hollywood film.
With a neo-noir bent expertly crafted to highlight the exquisite performances of its cast and the absolutely breathtaking bloodshed of its action sequences, not to mention Seon-ho’s overwhelmingly enjoyable performance as quite possibly the coolest character of 2023, The Childe is a true masterpiece of violence.
If it wasn’t already abundantly clear, writer and director Hoon-jung is a filmmaker who should absolutely be on your radar.
On the off-chance you’ve never heard of him or you’re looking for a place to start with his brutally-memorable backlog of worthwhile films, this thrilling powerhouse of a film is a great place to start. It will easily make you a fan.
- Thrilling from start to finish.
- Incredible, blood-soaked action.
- An all-around impressive cast - Kim Seon-ho should be your new favorite actor.
- The story is more predictable than one would like it to be