A tense film that leans towards the melodramatic, held together by a brilliant performance from Kim Yoon-seok.
Produced and co-written by Bong Joon-ho (Snowpiercer, The Host, Mother), the debut feature of his Memories of Murder writing partner Shim Sung-bo is a mixed bag. The tale opens with a struggling fishing crew, led by the single-minded Captain Kang (Kim Yoon-seok). After years of trying to make ends meet, he finally makes a deal with the local shady types to smuggle Korean nationals out of China. Ignoring the advice of his crew, trouble naturally follows and high seas drama ensues. HAEMOO is an unquestionably tense film, and after a lengthy piece of exposition, picks up pace once out at sea. It would be a compelling character based drama were it not for its tendency to lead towards the melodramatic. Voice of reason Dong-sik (Park Yu-chun) tries desperately to keep the wolves at way, especially when he takes damsel in distress Hong-mae (Han Ye-ri) under his wing. Yet a crew full of guys who can’t seem to keep it in their pants, along with a gruesome game of cat and mouse, muddies matters as the film moves towards a stumbling denouement by way of an ill-placed love story. Kim Yoon-seok’s singular performance on the other hand, the same man who electrified The Chaser and The Yellow Sea, is captivating: an illogical extreme of Humphrey Bogart’s Queeg from The Caine Mutiny. For this reason alone, HAEMOO remains an interesting if overwrought drama, but fails to live up to its promise.
2014 | South Korea | Dir: Shim Sung-bo | Writer: Bong Joon-ho, Shim Sung-bo | Cast: Han Ye-ri, Kim Yoon-seok, Park Yu-chun | Distributor: Madman | Rating:★★★ (6/10)