Soo | aka Art of Revenge (2007) Review

"Soo" Korean Theatrical Poster

“Soo” Korean Theatrical Poster

Director: Yoichi Sai
Producer: Shin Beom-su, Hwang In-tae
Cast: Ji Jin-Hee, Kang Seong-Yeon, Oh Man-Seok, Lee Gi-Young, Jo Gyeong-Hwan, Mun Seong-Geun
Running Time: 122 min.

By HKFanatic

Soo is not a movie I ever hear listed in the same breath as other Korean revenge flicks like Oldboy or A Bittersweet Life. In fact, it’s not a movie that I ever hear listed at all! It’s a shame this film remains so damn obscure. For my money, Soo is one of the best revenge movies out there.

Actor Jin-hee Ji stars as the titular character Soo, who’s one of the top assassins in all of South Korea. Gangsters live in fear of him and the cops whisper his name with bated breath. But the man himself is haunted by a tragic past, until one day he gets the chance to reconnect with a figure from his youth. I won’t spoil the plot at all, but suffice to say Soo is sent on a quest for revenge that has him assuming another man’s identity and targeting an entire criminal organization. What follows is both a dark character study and a mesmerizing bloodbath.

Now, the big complaint I’ve heard about Soo is this: despite Soo being revered as a bad-ass by just about everybody in the film’s universe, and the fact that we clearly see he has an entire arsenal of automatic weapons in his apartment, most of the time he goes after his foes with nothing but a baseball bat or his wits. And he’s not so much a great martial artist as he is a scrappy fighter who won’t stop until he’s won. So, for some viewers this will hurt the realism of the movie; here we have the supposedly top assassin of Korea and he’s not a king of killers, but a messy fighter who won’t quit. This might be part of the reason why the movie maintains such a low rating at places like IMDB.

Personally, I loved this aspect of the movie. The character of Soo is like a mad-dog who refuses to be put down. You can stab him, try to blow him up, or hit him over the head with a baseball bat, and he will still come after you. There’s a saying like ‘you only die when you give up on living’; if that’s the case, then Soo is one tough bastard who refuses to draw his last breath. The action sequences in this movie aren’t your typical heavily-choreographed fights; they’re bloody brawls and stabbings that the characters barely crawl away from. The ending is one of those big “attack on the bad guy’s base” set-pieces you don’t see much outside of a John Woo movie, this time set to Italian opera. It’s spectacular.

I’ve probably made this movie sound like nothing but violence, but at 122 minutes there is a good deal of plot, character analysis, and strong performances from the two leads. Superb photography and a haunting soundtrack also help make Soo one of my favorite Korean films. Sometimes it’s not about striding into battle in slow motion and never once getting hit; sometimes it’s about picking yourself up off the floor and keeping your guts in your stomach with your own hands as you throw yourself at the bad guy once more. Soo is that kind of movie. Highly recommended for fans of gritty, violent films.

HKFanatic’s Rating: 9/10

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2 Responses to Soo | aka Art of Revenge (2007) Review

  1. Paul Bramhall says:

    Nice review! Yoichi Sai, much like Mipo Oh (the director of Japan’s entry to the 2014 Academy Awards, ‘The Light Shines Only There’), is actually a Japanese born Korean. He’s most well known for the movie he made before ‘Soo’, 2004’s ‘Blood and Bones’, in which he famously waited 6 years for Takeshi ‘Beat’ Kitano to become available for the role due to refusing to shoot it with anyone else as the lead.

    What’s interesting about ‘Soo’, his only Korean movie, is that he directed it under his Korean name – Yang Il-choi. Personally I think the movie warrants a watch based on the action alone, however the story has too many holes to come across as entirely convincing. The perfect example being the twin brother that Soo has been searching for for so long turns out to be a cop….surely it wouldn’t take that long to track down someone who’s a cop!?

    Great finale though, and it was nice to see Ji Jin-hee back onscreen this year with the Hong Kong movie ‘Helios’. If you haven’t checked it out, I’d also recommend the 2002 movie ‘H’.

    • HKFanatic says:

      Thanks for the feedback, Paul! In the interest of full disclosure, I actually wrote this review some time ago, so I’m curious if I would still feel the same way about “Soo” as an older and more sophisticated viewer. I remember at the time, though, I absolutely loved how vicious the film was.

      I know people on IMDB love to pick this movie apart – like, why does the greatest hitman in South Korea charge into battle with little more than a knife or a bat, why does he let his guard down enough for a little kid to stab him in a darkened corridor, etc. – but I appreciated the very unpretty, knockdown, drag-out nature of the fight scenes and the stylish photography.

      The trailer for Helios has me absolutely hyped. I have seen ‘H’ but it was ages ago. Sounds like I’m due for a rewatch? I recently rewatched Kiyoshi Kurosawa’s ‘Cure,’ a movie I love and which, if I recall, has a somewhat similar premise.

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