I was very excited to see The Target come through Upcomingdiscs headquarters. I am an avid consumer of New Korean Cinema, and The Target actually shares a producer with Oldboy (2003), my favorite film of all time. However, as soon as the credits roll, you learn that the film is inspired by Point Blank (Á bout portant), a French film made in 2010. So, I am immediately torn between my love of New Korean Cinema and my disdain for remakes. I must say, The Target was a rather pleasant surprise. Tae-joon is a young doctor who begins treating an accused murder suspect, Yeo-hoon, after he is chased from the crime scene by two thugs. An unknown assailant kidnaps Tae-joon’s pregnant wife and gives him the instruction to release Yeo-hoon before he falls into the custody of the police. Soon thereafter, Yeo-hoon escapes and Tae-joon realizes the police are not as helpful as they seem.
One thing that is important to note is that the film’s screenplay is penned by Cheol-Hong Jeon, whose oeuvre includes impressive titles such as Crying Fist and Kundo: Age of the Rampant. That being said, I am thrilled that Jeon did not copy Point Blank’s original screenplay. While I did enjoy the original French feature, I am very impressed with the complexity of Jeon’s adaptation. There are a few key similarities involving character occupations and general story arch, but ultimately, the story is a refreshing new thriller.
A complex story is not uncommon in New Korean Cinema; however, it is not the only thing that attracts me as a viewer. Typically, New Korean Cinema has extreme (yet tasteful) violence. With The Target you definitely get a lot of extreme and surprising violence, but it really lacks tastefulness. The idea of taste within violence is introduced primarily through camera movement and editing, and unfortunately, it just isn’t present here. There is nothing particularly wrong with the cinematography and editing, it just didn’t bring the gracefulness I have come to expect with New Korean Cinema.
Ultimately, it is the lack of grace within the filmmaking that earns it four stars, because I really enjoyed this film: especially because it is film. Shot with the ARRI Alexa, you just can’t substitute the texture of 35mm film. Even with the more contemporary cameras, the physicality of film is always noticeable and appreciated. Given Korea’s cinematic history, it is interesting that they are doing their best to maintain the value of film as an artistic medium rather than making the digital transition. Yes, there are many South Korean features that are shot digitally, but there seems to be an unconscious embracing of what South Korean filmmakers perceive as cinematic artistry.
Overall, I highly recommend The Target. The plot is a little too complex to accurately describe in a single paragraph, so don’t let my simplistic summary fool you. There are a lot of great twists and turns, none of which are forced into the story. It doesn’t carry the same visual grace that Oldboy does, but there are quite a few similar visual motifs that will be recognizable to anyone who is a fan of the film.