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Guns, fiery explosions, espionage, betrayal, brutal martial arts and brotherly love.  An odd mix for a film starring one of Koreaís most popular singing idols, but thatís what you get with director Park Hong-sooĎs Commitment.

As the son of one of North Koreaís elite secret agents, the high command sees good things in young Myung-hoonĎs future.  Motivating the teen with the lure of removal from the labour camp where he and his little sister have been imprisoned in dark, filthy squalor since their father was killed in Seoul; the boy turns out to be a prodigy and is sent into the South to carry out his own missions.  Upon arrival, Myung-hoon walks smack dab into a war between two spy factions with an assassin mercilessly knocking off members of Myung-hoonís own sector until the teenager becomes one of the hunted.  And because the prospects of impending death, capture by the Seoul police and his ongoing fear for his sisterís safety wasnít enough on Myung-hoonís plate, as part of his cover he must also navigate through the purgatory known as high school.  Attempting to keep a low profile, Myung-hoonís intensive training hasnít prepared him for the schoolís bullies, who just have to screw with the new kid.  The classmate heís seated next to has it worse than him, as the entire class taunts the girl for nothing more than keeping to herself; mentally and physically assaulting her daily and stealing her money.  Hye-inís having the same name as Myung-hoonís baby sis, as well as her helplessness against the thugs, triggers the spyís protectiveness and heís unable to walk away from her troubles, sparking a tentative friendship - the only one Myung-hoonís ever had.  Sadly, Myung-hoon hasnít the time to cultivate the relationship.  While in living in Seoul, the command in North Korea changes and suddenly Myung-hoonís entire sector is an endangered species.  Old comrades will turn on the lad to save their own necks and use every resource at hand to eliminate him.

Teenaged hitman movie are always fun:  The mix of innocence and its corruption, and clever ways to make those youthful, springy physiques achieve stunning acts of violence is fascinating to watch.  The most notable of these recently would be Hanna with Saoirse Ronan, the live action comic book, Kick-Ass, and Koreaís own box office bonanza from earlier this year, Secretly, Greatly.  Not so coincidentally, Commitment treads over much of the same ground as that film.  In Secretly, Greatly, the young North Korean super soldier disguised himself as the village idiot while brutally, gracefully obliterating his targets.  Not hedging its bets, the filmmakers loaded their movie with not one, but three KPop-idol pretty killers, all torn between duty, friendship and dreams of a normal, non-homicidal life. 

Commitment features an actual KPop idol, the leading sex god of the one of Koreaís biggest groups, Big Bang, the man called T.O.P, who uses his government name, Choi Seung-hyun, for this film.  Besides his knicker-melting bass voice and fierce rap style, T.O.P is famous for his model-perfect looks and suave, pimptastic swagger, so itís interesting to see him play a sweet-faced young man trained to kill without hesitation that is somehow still innocent and even naÔve.  The wide-eyed expression T.O.P employs throughout the film even sticks when heís brutally breaking bones or calmly shooting someone in the leg.  For all his murderous training, Myung-hoon is still a child whose only thought is for the safety of the little sister he loves who becomes his responsibility after their father is falsely labelled a traitor and betrayed by his comrades.  He has no clue about the social strata of high school and the unchecked meanness of his peers.  Heís instructed not to trust or get close to anyone, which is a big problem when, A) youíre a spy and everyone around you could end up dead at any time, and, B), you look like Myung-hoon and have such dashing heroic instincts.  When Hye-in is dragged into an empty classroom by the tormenting gang of boys and has her shirt torn open, Myung-hoonís quick and brutal dispatch of the bullies is the modern day version of the knight riding in on the white charger to rescue the princess from the dragon - or in this case, saving her from the dum-dums who end up in casts and neck braces when itís all over.  The friendship (And I do mean friendship, thereís no hormones allowed here, folks; canít make the fangirls jealous. The filmmakers go so far as to dress actress Kim Yoo-jeong in a series of increasingly-oversized knit outfits with an unattractive 1970ís Dorothy Hamill haircut.) that develops despite Myung-hoonís best intentions is quite touching.  His innocent, puppy dog eyes gives insight to the loneliness the young man must have endured all this time.  His other bond with an older lady, an undercover lieutenant in the North Korean army whoís been waiting to go back to her country for years (Why, I dunno) is also emotional.  Myung-hoon is sweet and thoughtful to the curmudgeonly gal, who is as maternal toward Myung-hoon as she was to his father, years before.

Commitmentís supporting cast is pretty excellent with Kim Yoo-jeong as classmate Hye-in, who says, Ďlater for this,í leaving the school after being assaulted by the gang for the last time.  The spunky young miss follows her dreams and trains as a dancer, showing Myung-hoon thereís so much more to the world than what is in front of their faces.  In a small role as Myung-hoonís alleged foster mother, Kim Sun-kyung gets laughs as a wry fellow agent with her own mission, who is curious about this young killer in their home.  Lee Ju-sil as the lieutenant with the handy food tent, gives the cranky old bird just enough begrudging warmth without being saccharine.  Surprisingly, the popular child actress, Kim Yoo-jung, who plays Myung-hoonís beloved sister, is hardly in the film:  She first appears mostly in short flashbacks, then comes in about three-quarters of  the way through without much to do other than scream in terror or look sad, which seems a waste.

The action would be a big part of any teenage assassin flick, and the staging for Commitmentís mix of gunplay and hand-to-hand combat is harder and bloodier than one might reckon for this filmís expected demographic.  Thereís plenty of moments of T.O.P looking cool and deadly; riding a Ducati motorcycle and punching, kicking and shooting (and occasionally just posing) his way through battalions of bad guys.  His spy-smart resourcefulness in times of crisis is fun, as well.  The camerawork is fairly quick cut and Iím not sure how many of T.O.Pís stunts were his own, but itís still enjoyable.  Not as bombastic as the action in Secretly, Greatly, but thereís enough car chases, ambushes, fiery blazes and grueling MMA-style fighting to be entertaining  and T.O.P delivers it admirably.  That said, director Park Hong-soo never stays too long on one development, and as mentioned, T.O.P  perpetuates this wide-eyed look, giving the impression that his expressions run the emotional gamut from A to B, but in the scenes with some of the older cast, particularly Lee Ju-sil as his surrogate North Korean grandmother, you see a little of his potential.  T.O.P shouldnít be looking for his name on an Oscar just yet, but given time and a script with actual character development, he might have something.

Already a hit in its native Korea, Commitment is worth the price of a ticket for action fans and an absolute must-see for fans of Big Bang and the man called T.O.P.

 

~ The Lady Miz Diva

Dec 6th, 2013

 

COMMITMENT opens in the US in selected cities on Dec. 6 Click below for details and showtimes:

http://www.wellgousa.com/theatrical/commitment

 

 

 

 

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Photos

(Stills Courtesy of  Well Go USA)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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