OK, in case you didn’t know this about me, I’m a sucker for South Korean action cinema. Sure, the 90’s were ruled by Hong Kong, but for about a decade South Korea has been killing it by putting out some of the most visually stunning action films in years. For a quick crash course in how simply bad-ass and epic their cinema is, I highly recommend checking out The Chaser and A Bittersweet Life. With Commitment we get a new entry in the spy genre that hasn’t been explored stateside.
Myung-hoon (Choi Seung-Hyun, a Korean pop star also known as T.O.P) and his sister are stuck in a North Korean labor camp after their father is killed in South Korea working as a spy. Myung-hoon is offered a chance to protect his sister and stay alive, only it requires him to go into training as a spy and travel into South Korea and await word for his mission.
The sponsor family takes him in as a defector. Still a teenager, Myung-hoon goes to school to blend in. There he meets Hye-in, who just so happens to share the same name as his younger sister. Hye-in is bullied on a regular basis. Myung-hoon takes it upon himself to reach out to her as a friend and look after her, but this only puts him into the crosshairs of the bullies. If dealing with bullies and homework wasn’t enough, Myung-hoon is working in the late hours as an assassin taking down members of a rival spy ring Unit 35. Myung-hoon works for Unit 8, and it is later discovered that the two groups are funneling money towards a power struggle occurring in North Korea following the death of Kim Jong-Il.
When the moment finally arrives that Myung-hoon steps up to the bullies, it’s a fast and brutal fight that looks like something out of the Jason Bourne films. Myung-hoon leaves the bullies broken and bloodied on the floor and walks Hye-in to safety. But things just get worse for Myung-hoon when even his own organization turns on him. From this point on the plot drifts off to the land of over the top and simply loses most of its believeability points, but the final product as a whole is still a good ride while it lasted.
Though the action isn’t all too original, what keeps this film alive is the friendship /romance between Myung-hoon and Hye-in. Choi Seung-Hyun’s performance is well above the pedestrian performances we’re used to in the states from pop stars, between the way he handles the martial arts choreography and several dramatic moments with Hye-in.
Commitment is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.39:1. The 1080p image is arrived at with an AVC MPEG-4 codec at an average of 18 mbps. The film looks to have been shot on a fairly small budget and presents us with some modest set pieces. During the color-grading process it seems a steely blue was what they decided would go as the overall look of the film. In some of the night shots the blacks seemed to overlap some, but nothing too distracting. When the film moved in with the close-ups, the skin tones appeared more natural.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 Korean track booms in all the right places giving the action sequences the added punch they needed. The dialog for those who may speak Korean sounds clear and is never overpowered by the sound design, which is balanced and evenly spread.
Behind the Scenes: (10:30) A brief look at the making of the film that starts with an interview with the film’s star. I’m guessing in South Korea Choi Seung-Hyun is kind of a big deal, since just about every shot of the BTS involves him. We do get some glimpses of them choreographing and filming the fight scene with the school bullies, which is nice. For what it is, the feature is a nice addition but nothing groundbreaking.
I have to say I expected a little more out of this release; the end result is still a solid film, it’s just nothing memorable. The most promising thing that did result in this film is Choi Seung-Hyun should be a guy I’m going to keep an eye on as more Korean films make their way upon our shores. For the action buffs out there, this is a movie worth checking out, especially if you find yourself at a Redbox and realize you’ve seen all the Dolph Lundgren films you can stomach.