Guardian (보호자)

Guardian (보호자) – ★★☆☆☆

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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Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013
The 18th Busan International Film Festival

BIFF 2013: Korean Cinema Today – Vision

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The 18th Busan International Film Festival

The Korean Cinema Today – Vision program at the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) aims to highlight some of the independent film making talent emerging in 2013.

While the Panorama section explores big budget affairs (see here for the full profile), Vision is often a very exciting category due the fresh and distinctive approach new directors take, while the films themselves are often quite creative due to their low budget nature. Typically, there are a few gems to be found as talented film makers use Vision as a springboard for their careers.

For BIFF 2013, there are a number of interesting works on offer. Several directors make their respective debuts, while there are a surprising number of genre films including gangster, thriller, and comedy, present within. There are also a number of films that tackle challenging social issues such as surrogate mothers, teenage problems, and the experiences of foreign wives.

For profiles of all the films within Korean Cinema Today – Vision, please see below.

Korean Cinema Today – Vision

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨)

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨)

Dynamite Man (다이너마이트맨)

Director: Jeong Hyuk-won (정혁원)

Synopsis: Revenge thriller Dynamite Man is director Jeong’s debut film. When two brothers betray their gang, one is brutally tortured. Filled with rage the surviving brother targets those responsible – with dynamite.

Godsend (신의 선물)

Godsend (신의 선물)

Godsend (신의 선물)

Director: Moon Si-hyun (문시현)

Synopsis: Based on an idea by Kim Ki-duk, the film is a modern nativity of sorts. A young girl plans to exchange her baby with a couple, but complications arise from the men in their lives.

Guardian (보호자)

Guardian (보호자)

Guardian (보호자)

Director: Yoo Won-sang (유원상)

Synopsis: In his debut film, director Yoo tells the story of an ex-fireman whose daughter is kidnapped. For the girl to return unharmed, he must do the unthinkable and kidnap a boy for an exchange.

Han Gong-ju (한공주)

Han Gong-ju (한공주)

Han Gong-ju (한공주)

Director: Lee Su-jin (이수진)

Synopsis: Student Gong-ju starts a new school, making new friends and becoming involved in after school classes. However when a group of meddling parents discover Gong-ju’s whereabouts, her troubled past is revealed.

Intruders (조난자들)

Intruders (조난자들)

Intruders (조난자들)

Director: Noh Young-seok (노영석)

Synopsis: Receiving a world premiere at Toronto, director Noh’s (Daytime Drinking) Intruders follows a screenwriter who travels into the country to complete his screenplay. Yet when mysterious strangers arrive, violent events are set in motion.

The King of Jokgu (족구왕)

The King of Jokgu (족구왕)

The King of Jokgu (족구왕)

Director: Woo Moon-gi (우문기)

Synopsis: Sports comedy The King of Jokgu tells the story of a team passionate about foot volleyball, a popular past-time in Korea. When their request for a court is rejected, the team fight to make it happen.

Mot (못)

Mot (못)

Mot (못)

Director: Seo Ho-bin (서호빈)

Synopsis: Sung-pil tragically lost his younger sister in a motorcycle accident. Years later, Sung-pil meets the man responsible forcing painful emotions to resurface.

Shuttlecock (셔틀콕)

Shuttlecock (셔틀콕)

Shuttlecock (셔틀콕)

Director: Lee Yu-bin (이유빈)

Synopsis: Following the death of their parents, a huge insurance payout is given to Eun-ju, but when she disappears half-brother Min-jae attempts to find her.

The Stone (스톤)

The Stone (스톤)

The Stone (스톤)

Director: Cho Se-rae (조세래)

Synopsis: When a mob boss losses a game of baduk (Go) to a young prodigy, the two begin to form a relationship as they continue to play each other.

Thuy (안녕, 투이)

Thuy (안녕, 투이)

Thuy (안녕, 투이)

Director: Kim Jae-han (김재한)

Synopsis: Another debut film, Thuy depicts the life of a Vietnamese girl living in the country with her in-laws. When her husband fails to return home, Thuy’s enquiries attract the wrong kind of attention.

Busan International Film Festival (제18회 부산국제영화제) Festival News Korean Festivals 2013