Guardian (보호자)

Guardian (보호자)

An ex-firefighter and his family live a quiet and content life as florists, arranging flowers and delivering them around the local area. However one night after a delivery his daughter fails to return home, causing the family great concern. Their awful fear is realised when a stranger calls, informing them that he has abducted the girl and, if they want to see her alive and well again, the father must follow his instructions to the letter – including the kidnap of a young boy.

In a sea of over-crowded thrillers, Guardian (보호자) is a refreshing take on the genre. While each thriller attempts, and often fails, to use a particular ‘twist’ in order to make it stick in audience memory, Guardian‘s hook of pushing a father to the extreme of kidnap is an interesting premise indeed. Director Yoo Won-sang (유원상) does well for his directorial debut, and certainly shows potential for the future as he competently helms the story. Director Yoo does especially well in constructing the opening of the film, conveying the family as a loving and bickering group who play and curse yet still enjoy each other’s company. Such scenes are genuinely heart-warming and humourous, however in the quest to rapidly get to the daughter’s abduction the film runs into problems.

The ex-firefighter's daughter is kidnapped after delivering flowers for the family business

The ex-firefighter’s daughter is kidnapped after delivering flowers for the family business

Guardian is so concerned with getting to the kidnap as soon as possible that not enough time is spent developing the characterisaton within the family for it to have the requisite horror it should have. Such an issue could easily be overlooked with the construction of tension as the father follows the kidnapper’s instructions, but this is also highly problematic and often dull as initially all the ex-firefighter does is simply drive to different locations for no reason. Again, director Yoo seems more concerned with getting to the premise itself than the journey there, which is a real missed opportunity to generate suspense and character insight. As such, when the father is faced with abducting a child or risk losing his daughter, the scenes are interesting rather than poignant, although the director does add some nice flourishes.

With such an interesting premise Guardian doesn’t need to add some of the typical contrivances that afflict Korean thrillers, yet unfortunately they are present particularly in the later stages of the film. Twists and turns are always enjoyable but the story tips its hand too early, while the lack of sufficient clues, red herrings, and general characterisation means that they never achieve the impact their potential suggests. The tone of the film, chiefly due to the music, is also to blame as the soundtrack is often wildly inappropriate for the scenes in which they feature. Despite this however, the loose ends are weaved together for an interesting, though far from powerful, finale.

The father is pushed to breaking point in the attempt to be reunited with his daughter

The father is pushed to breaking point in the attempt to be reunited with his daughter

Verdict:

Guardian has an interesting premise, as a father is tasked with kidnapping a boy in exchange for his own abducted daughter. Director Yoo Won-sang displays potential throughout his directorial debut, competently helming the thriller with some nice flourishes. However the story is quite underdeveloped throughout, with a lack of tension and suspense equating to scenes that never fulfill their true potential. As such Guardian is an interesting, rather than exciting, thriller.

★★☆☆☆

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