POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Dec 6, 2013
The South Korean film industry sure knows how to turn out satisfying and brutal little thrillers.
Case in point: "Commitment," a tough spy drama and muted romance starring K-pop star Choi Seung Hyun (better known to his fans as T.O.P). Don't let the fact that T.O.P gets teenage hearts fluttering in his musical life lead you to think this is a movie aimed at kids.
Seung Hyun is Ri Myung Hoon, the son of a North Korean spy, thrown in jail along with his sister, Ri Hye In (Kim Yoo Jung), because dear old dad was killed in his failed espionage mission in South Korea. But his Pyongyang jailers give him an offer he can't refuse: carry out a mission in South Korea and he and his sister will be released.
That's how he finds himself undercover in a South Korean high school by day, being taunted by bullies and discovering an attraction to an equally tormented student played by Han Ye Ri (who just happens to have the same name as his sister), and by night hunting the man gunning down former North Korean spies living in South Korea. This is all taking place against the backdrop of North Korea's changeover from the rule of Kim Jong Il to his son Kim Jong Un.
Seung Hyun brings a terse intensity to the role, able to remain credible whether dealing out bone-snapping body blows or quietly falling for his classmate. Director Park Hong Soo, in his first feature, keeps everything moving briskly, even though the film, in Korean with English subtitles, runs close to two hours.
If nothing else, "Commitment" is an impressive calling card.
Cary Darling, Fort Worth Star-Telegram