Connect with us
'V.I.P.' spends far too much time weaving its tangled web, and too little time ripping it apart.

Film

Fantastic Fest 2017: ‘V.I.P.’ Struggles To Stand Out

‘V.I.P.’ spends far too much time weaving its tangled web, and too little time ripping it apart.

Political intrigue and gruesome murder make strange bedfellows in V.I.P., the busy new serial killer thriller from South Korea. Director Park Hoon-Jung Director Hoon-jung aims to examine the boundaries of privilege through rank psychopathy while commenting on the current geopolitical climate, but winds up with a busy, depressing mess that drags as much as it thrills. Placing a monster at the center of political gamesmanship is actually an excellent technique, but the exhausting investigation mostly serves to make everyone look rotten in the end.

The titular Important Person is Kim Kwang-Il (Lee Jong-Suk), his status inherited from a high ranking DPRK official. After committing some heinous acts against young women and their extended families in North Korea, Kim is passed along to first Hong Kong and then Seoul. His North Korean pursuer, Ri Dae-bum (Park Hee-soon), is reassigned to hard labor duty at a fertilizer plant. Once in South Korea, Kim and his merry band of degenerates quickly get up to old tricks and attract the attention of Park Jae-hyuk (Jang Dong-gun), a National Intelligence Service man trying to quietly bury the case, and Chae Yi-do (Kim Myung-min), a maverick police officer looking to blow it wide open.

Lee Jong-Suk turns in a unsettling performance as a child-man so armored by his privilege that raping and murdering scores of people ranks as a vaguely eccentric parlor game. Given the lack of strong women characters (not to mention gay characters), its disappointing that Kim Kwang-Il’s psychosis is couched in androgynous beauty and effeminate manner, but matters of taste and cultural sensitivity aside, the character is one of the most successful aspects of V.I.P. Kim Myung-min also commits admirably to a trite characterization, adding surprising depth to chain-smoking, rule-breaking, uber-badass Chae Yi-do. A delightful Peter Stormare also shows up for a small role as an excessively Texan and crooked CIA agent. Roles are uniformly well-cast, but characters rarely get a chance to satisfy a cohesive arc.

V.I.P. spends far too much time weaving its tangled web, and too little time ripping it apart. The story is much more straightforward than it seems, and the convoluted political wheeling and dealing appears to be a choice rather than a necessity. And while the extensive machinations of the political juggernaut eventually do build a kind of tension, it’s due to frustrating tedium rather than well-balanced suspense. The film doesn’t wind up to be cleverly unwound — it simply gets unwieldy, then shifts gears. That said, the last 30 minutes of the film are actually riveting, and Kim Kwang-Il’s eventual comeuppance is enormously satisfying, but one is left wishing the story had pared down to its central conflict more quickly, or at least more cleverly.


V.I.P.
was likely conceived before the impeachment of Korean President Park Geun-hye, and its critical eye is directed outward, yet a story of gruff sort-of-do-gooders running up against massive corruption feels especially timely. However, this story could really use a humanistic core to explore that banal evil of bureaucracy. The ostensible hero begins his story by actively and violently breaking from police procedure, refusing him even the possibility of a tragic arc, and though the NIS man has all the makings of a redemptive tale, his character is under-cooked, given limited screen time and limited backbone. Without proper human development, V.I.P. simply becomes a pessimistic catalog of evil and corruption with some gangbusters blood-letting at the end.

Written By

Emmet Duff is a small town Ohioan living in Austin, TX. When he's not writing about film, he cares for plants, takes pictures, and goes exploring.

Click to comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Facebook

Trending

Beyond The Black Rainbow – Austere, Cerebral, and Sometimes Maddening

Film

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 2)

Culture

Oz Pilot The Routine review Oz Pilot The Routine review

Oz: Revisiting the Pilot Episode of HBO’s Darkest Show

TV

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time 50 Best HBO Shows of All Time

50 Best HBO Shows of All Time (Part 1)

TV

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age for television

The Shield TV Pilot Marked the Start of the Golden Age of Television

TV

Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

15 Best Star Wars Lightsaber Duels Ranked

Film

The Wire Season 1 and 2 The Wire Season 1 and 2

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 1)

TV

Best of the Wire Best of the Wire

The Best of The Wire: A Superlative List

TV

Apple TV+’s The Big Conn is a Compelling but Overlong True Crime Series  

TV

We Own This City: Why You Should Be Watching the Anticipated Spiritual Sequel to The Wire

Culture

Jerry West and Mob Hits: HBO’s Winning Time and What Really Happened

TV

The Wire Season 3 The Wire Season 3

20 Years Later, The Wire’s Genre Filmmaking is Still Unmatched (Part 2)

TV

Rocky III review Rocky III review

40 Years Ago, Rocky III Brought the Italian Stallion into the ’80s

Film

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness review

Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness is a Multiverse Muddle 

Film

The Fifth Element retrospective The Fifth Element retrospective

The Fifth Element 25 Years Later: Still One of the Greatest Space Operas Ever

Film

Ranking Mission Impossible Ranking Mission Impossible

The Definitive Ranking of the Mission: Impossible Series

Film

Connect