Friday, May 9, 2014

Review: Howling (2012)

Howling (Review)
Yoo Ha/Song Kang-ho/2012
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...works very well as a mystery-thriller film."

Veteran detective Jo Sang-gil (Song Kang-ho) and his recently assigned rookie partner Cha Eun-young (Lee Na-young) investigate a string of rash murders connected by drugs and a mysterious wolf bite...

Howling follows this pair as they try to solve the mystery behind the murders. At first, Sang-gil insist in solving the crime without backup -- he knows how the system works, and he knows he'll be passed up again if he reports his findings. So, Sang-gil and Eun-young conduct their own investigation all while bickering a bit gender. The mystery is interesting and delves deeper than a killer wolf. As it unravels, the mystery takes us deeper into the criminal underworld; it also questions who really is the victim and suspect. Howling features some interesting twists and turns -- they never really shock -- and it kept me interested up to the surprisingly effective ending; this is an ending that will pack a punch for certain viewers.

As far as the main plot goes, Howling works very well as a mystery-thriller film. Howling doesn't try to shock you with huge twists and turns, instead following a more procedural route; consequently, the film felt surprisingly realistic and effective. I really enjoyed the different investigation strategies they used, and all of the different areas they visited. You may also learn a bit about dogs and wolves. (honestly, I'm not really sure about the accuracy of the information, so maybe it's not so educational.) The real drag was the Cha Eun-young/gender subplot. You see, Cha Eun-young is a female detective so she's treated as a lesser person. It could've made for some interesting character development, but, instead, it's overwhelming, overblown, and even cheesy. It's just so blunt, it feels like it really wants to make a statement -- a little subtly would've helped. This is kinda how these scenes go: "Hey, are you sure you know how to breathe? You are a woman after all! Hahaha!" (okay, that's a little exaggerated, but that's what it feels like when the movie hits you over the head with this over and over... and over.) Fortunately, this subplot dwindles a bit towards the third act.

Song Kang-ho is great -- his character doesn't really give him the chance to use his great energy, but he delivers, as usual. Lee Na-young is also great, a charismatic leading lady. The music fits well with the film, especially during the final act where it helps build the suspense and tension. The film is shot nicely, a great use of color and lighting. The pacing was very well balanced -- the movie is always moving and it keeps a very consistent pace up to the end -- I didn't check the runtime at all. Writer and director Yoo Ha delivers a by-the-books yet engaging and interesting mystery-thriller; the subplot lacks the necessary subtly to be effective, and it's unfortunately overused, though.

Overall, Howling is an engaging and entertaining mystery-thriller movie. The story kept me hooked from beginning to end, the film is technically well made, and both leads deliver great performances. However, the subplot is useless -- it fails to deliver whatever it was trying to deliver -- it may even be offensive to some viewers due to the lack of realism and subtly.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood, some dog fighting. (the ending of the film states the animals were treated well, so I don't think it was real.)

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