Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: Hwayi: A Monster Boy (2013)

Hwayi: A Monster Boy (Review)
Jang Joon-hwan/Yeo Jin-goo/2013
Where to watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime 

"...satisfied by the intense close-quarter-combat, the violent shootings, and the fantastic chase scenes..."

A young boy named Hwa-yi (Yeo Jin-goo) is raised by five fathers with notorious criminal ties...

After the introduction, Hwayi: A Monster Boy follows the titular character during his young adult life. Raised by five criminal fathers, at this point in his life, Hwa-yi doesn't actively participate in his fathers' vicious activities. He is, however, trained by his parents, and his father Seok-tae (Kim Yoon-seok) continuously tests Hwa-yi's limits. Midway through, Hwa-yi uncovers a sinister secret of his fathers' past which places them at odds and spirals Hwa-yi into a vicious rampage. The violent ending was satisfying – there was one element, or rather person, that came out of nowhere and felt out place, but it was otherwise a very effective finale.

Hwayi: A Monster Boy is a vicious thriller. First and foremost, I just want to say I really appreciate the beautifully stylized introduction and ending credits – too often we forget how much effort is placed into these segments, and I have to say I absolutely loved these. Anyway, I really enjoyed the story of Hwayi. The first half of the film really works well in creating the situation at hand and developing its characters – and the characyters, despite mostly being antagonistic, have great character. The “twist” in the middle was a bit predictable, and it did feel a little too convenient for a plot contrivance, but it ultimately works out in setting up the second half of the film.

Those looking for action will be satisfied by the intense close-quarter-combat, the violent shootings, and the fantastic chase scenes – in fact, the car chase scene in this film leaped up to the top of my all-time favorite car chases. Most of the action occurs during the second half, but both halves really compliment each other well, regardless. By the way, the film was unexpectedly violent – gallons and gallons of blood on screen from the vicious stabbings and shootings. Also, there is some humor in the film, most of it is really black humor, and I thought it was hilarious – it gave the film a little more personality. Aside from a few plot contrivances and a few cliches, I loved the action and the originality of the plot.

Yeo Jin-goo is great as the lead; he can be a bit melodramatic at times, but he usually nails the character. Kim Yoon-seok, who also stars in Running Turtle and The Chaser, delivers a fantastic performance; in fact, this may be his very best performance as he really captures the charismatic but sinister character perfectly. The rest of the acting is great. The film is shot beautifully, I loved the lighting and cinematography. The camerawork was also great in capturing the action. The music fit the picture perfectly. The film uses some computer graphics during some sequences, and they looked fantastic – they really didn't skimp on the visual effects. I watched the South Korean Blu-ray of this film; the picture and audio quality are superb; the English subtitles are also perfect. Director Jang Joon-hwan, despite the plot contrivances and cliches, crafts a creative thriller, focusing on character to amplify the thrills and emotion.

Overall, Hwayi: A Monster Boy is a great film. The story is great, the ending was superbly built up, and the acting and directing from Kim Yoon-seok and Jang Joon-hwan, respectively, is masterful. Like I said, though, there were some moments that were too convenient for the storytelling and a few scenes were very cliché and unnecessarily melodramatic. Otherwise, you're in for a bloody treat.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood, some sexual references.

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