Every Critically Acclaimed Korean Action Film in Under 120 Words

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he works a violent job/is put in an awkward position. We are quickly introduced to a fragile love interest/child/dependent who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said fragile love interest/child/dependent is abruptly kidnapped/killed/threatened and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and saving said dependent/killing someone important. For the next hour he successfully kills dozens/ hunts someone or something until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf realizing his existential loneliness/crying/questioning true happiness.

Warning: the following post, though exclusively using the words above, may spoil some of these films for you if you’ve not already seen them. Though if you have seen them, come to think of it, it might spoil them anyway.

The Chaser (imdb rating 7.9)

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he works a violent job (pimp). We are quickly introduced to a  fragile love interest (his favourite prostitute) who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said fragile love interest is abruptly kidnapped and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and saving said dependent. For the next hour he successfully hunts someone until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf realizing his existential loneliness.

I Saw The Devil (imdb rating 7.8)

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he works a violent job (secret agent). We are quickly introduced to a  fragile love interest (his wife) who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said fragile love interest is abruptly killed and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and killing someone important. For the next hour he successfully hunts someone until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf crying.

Oldboy (imdb rating 8.4)

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he is put in an awkward position (mysteriously kidnapped). We are quickly introduced to a  fragile love interest (stranger) who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said  fragile love interest is abruptly threatened and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and killing someone important. For the next hour he successfully kills dozens and hunts someone until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf questioning true happiness.

The Man From Nowhere (imdb rating 7.8)

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he works a violent job (ex-Black Ops). We are quickly introduced to a child who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said child is abruptly kidnapped and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and saving said dependent. For the next hour he successfully kills dozens and hunts someone important until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf crying. 

A Bittersweet Life (imdb rating 7.7)

OPEN ON a lone wolf male. Within the first 20 minutes we understand that he is capable of dangerous things because he works a violent job (gangster). We are quickly introduced to a dependent (boss’s daughter) who is the only one who can crack his cold emotional exterior. Said dependent is abruptly threatened and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over his head. Now borderline-insane, he seeks revenge through vigilantism and killing someone important. For the next hour he successfully kills dozens until two hours are up and he questions the cost of his quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf realizing his existential loneliness.

Mother (imdb rating 7.9)

OPEN ON a lone wolf female (twist!). Within the first 20 minutes we understand that she is capable of dangerous things because she is put in an awkward position (son accused of murder). We are quickly introduced to a child who is the only one who can crack her cold emotional exterior. Said child is abruptly threatened and the lone wolf is thrown into a mess well over her head. Now borderline-insane, she seeks revenge through vigilantism and saving said dependent. For the next hour she successfully hunts something until two hours are up and she questions the cost of her quest, at which point the film ends on a shot of the lone wolf realizing her existential loneliness.

PostScript Notes:

I think the weirdest part is how so many of these films end on shots of dudes crying. Also fun to connect the celebrity dots: Won Bin is the lead actor in Mother and The Man from Nowhere; Choi Min-sik is the lead actor in Oldboy and I Saw the Devil; and Lee Byung-hun is the lead actor in I Saw the Devil and A Bittersweet Life, both of which were directed by Kim Jee-won.

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2 thoughts on “Every Critically Acclaimed Korean Action Film in Under 120 Words

  1. I would say that Oldboy ends with its protagonist insane, crying, and possibly experiencing the true happiness of jouissance… but otherwise this formula seems to go quite far

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