Director: Park Hoon-jung
Starring: Kim Seon-ho, Kang Tae-joo, Kim Kang-woo, Go Ara
South Korea’s Park Hoon-jung, writer of I Saw the Devil and creator of a host of action thrillers, returns with The Childe, a neo-noir action thriller with more than a hint of John Woo to it. His eighth feature mainly follows Marco (Tae-joo), a boxer who has fallen foul of local gangs which leaves him unable to fund his sick mother's treatment, as he is whisked away to South Korea to apparently reunite with his estranged father. Trailing him, though, is the mysterious ‘Nobleman’ (Seon-ho), who is more than handy in a scrap, and a collection of miscreants all vying to catch up with Marco one way or another.
"It’s fair to say the action keeps the film ticking over - at least as best it can - because The Childe drags in many places."
There are plenty of characters and driving plot beats in The Childe, so many so that it all gets a bit convoluted at times with ideas being forgotten about just as quickly as they were introduced. The strangest aspect was the use of Marco. Originally introduced as our lead, we meet him as an up-and-coming fighter with a defining trait that ends up going absolutely nowhere, and it feels like that is an accurate way to describe Marco throughout, he doesn’t have the opportunity to shine, instead being cast aside in favour of Kim Seon-ho’s far more charismatic ‘Nobleman’. Seon-ho’s presence elevated the film when he was on-screen and left a void when he was absent - and he is afforded by far the best action sequences in the film.
The action itself is a mixed bag. At times it looks polished, the choreography and editing marry to create slick and stylish action sequences. But at other times, the opposite can be said, and, sometimes, certain action scenes carry a mixture of both the good and the bad. It’s fair to say the action keeps the film ticking over - at least as best it can - because The Childe drags in many places. The initial scenes feel elongated and uninteresting, and similar moments are scattered throughout the film as it ultimately suffered from a stretched runtime and a meandering narrative.
The Childe does carry an air of mystery to it, the true reasons as to why Marco, born of Filipino and Korean parents, is swept away from his home in the Philippines in true luxury en route to his father in Seoul hangs over the film - however, the overstuffed story negates any real response to the final reveal due to it feeling a little like a slog getting there. The Childe, overall, is simply fine. It carries some decent action but it never escapes the fact that it simply feels a bit vanilla throughout.
August 8th 2023