A mob boss is double-crossed by four associates, who disappear with his cash, his girl and his pride. With only hours until he gets busted, the boss calls in Lee, aka The Korean, his deadliest 'cleaner' to track down the associates in Pittsburgh and extract some revenge.
Films with a revenge or payback angle are almost always a plus in my book. It's a staple in most action films. As such, if you're directing one, you'd want to at least make things understandable to viewers, almost to the point where shutting off the logic portion of your brain is almost a requirement in some cases. Writer/director Thomas Dixon tries to do that with his film THE KOREAN, but also bucks the trend by attempting to introduce more background info on the protagonist, which would be great if things didn't get in the way.
In THE KOREAN, Dixon attempts to give us more than just your usual action film protagonist. Initially, you'd write Lee off as just another by-the-numbers character. However, later in the film Lee is developed to the point where you're expected to empathize with him and his intentions. Sure, you almost always end up doing that with the main character in action films anyways, but Dixon tries to put a spin on it that attempts to separate the film from the rest of its peers. I also have to give it to Jack Erdie, who plays Ray, Lee's protege in the film. The dude's witty banter with a touch of evil was a standout, and contrasted nicely to Lee's cold and methodical character.
Unfortunately, the positives for THE KOREAN end there. Almost everyone else could've used a few more takes to get it right. It's not entirely their fault, as the script has issues with believability, even for an action film. Case in point: one of the double-crossers has a wife with the intelligence of a bag of sand for believing her husband's story about why there was blood on his shirt. Seriously, a nose bleed? What, the guy decided to sneeze all over it? Throw in some questionable ADR by John Yost in that scene, and you get what the rest of the film's acting is like.
Things really start to unravel when we start getting bombarded with flashbacks. While it's could've been interesting to have them, the problem is that Dixon goes back to these a little too much, and doesn't give much in terms of visual cues as to when these flashbacks occur. No filters, no change in colour palette, just some text. If it weren't for that text indicating how many hours in the past the scene occurred, you'd be lost. Even then, the constant jumps to past and present are disorienting, to say the least. It's an action film that tries to be smart, but ends up being more confusing and by-the-numbers more than anything.
I wanted to like this film, but things went off the rails right from the start. Questionable acting overall, mixed in with bad dialogue (even for an action film) and an inkling to stick with traditional action films make this a chore to sit through. It goes like this: take an action film, throw in some gunplay and some kickass moves, and you have THE TRANSPORTER. Take another action film, throw in a confusing storyline that jumps around like a kid with ADD, where everyone double-crosses everyone to the point you no longer care, and you have THE KOREAN.
I can see where Dixon tried to do something a bit different with THE KOREAN, but waited too long to capitalize on some of what he set out to do, or just went overboard on others. Letting the confusing and aggravating stuff get to the audience first before playing out the things you want your film to stand out on isn't a good thing. Had the film and script spent more time in editing, THE KOREAN could've been something more. As it stands, the 'more' is just more confusion, more of the same and more of my apathy.