Monday, September 8, 2014

Review: The Executioner (2009)

The Executioner (Review)
Choi Jin-ho/Cho Jae-hyun/2009
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...the film successfully transmits the on-screen conflict to the audience."

The first executions in over 12 years creates a conflicted atmosphere at a Korean prison.

The Executioner follows correctional officers Bae Jong-Ho (Cho Jae-hyun) and rookie Oh Jae-Kyeong (Yoon Kye-sang), as well as three other unlucky officers, as they prepare for the execution. Hard-boiled officer Jong-Ho is more than willing, while Jae-Kyeong and others are visibly unsure. One inmate is a vicious serial killer, the other has repented for years and can't hurt a fly. These are the conflicts we witness; these are the conflicts we contemplate about. The film ends with a devastating epilogue; I don't agree with the extremely irrational actions of one particular character during the epilogue, but that's film for ya -- you can't always have it your way.

The Executioner is a great prison drama. It's a tad on the melodramatic side, but it works -- and it works well. There are some very interesting characters and inner conflicts -- not only in the prison, but the film also shows the toll of their work on their personal lives. It did skimp on some details and buildup, though. For example, there's a third criminal being executed, but we never get any insight on his situation. Anyway, it didn't feel like a film that preached. It's not a film that beats you over the head and tries to tell you what's right or wrong.

Instead, The Executioner presents two sides. Like I said, it shows you the life of a veteran and rookie officer, or at least their lives at that very moment. It also shows you two different criminals. It's hard to debate the serial killer didn't deserve it. And, it's hard to say the repenting criminal did deserve it. In a way, the film successfully transmits the on-screen conflict to the audience. I mean, I'm genuinely conflicted by my own thoughts and opinions. (If you've seen it, what did you think?)

The acting is all-around great. Like I said, the film is a tad melodramatic, but Cho Jae-hyun and Yoon Kye-sang deliver genuine performances. The film is shot well, too. The music fits the mood perfectly -- it definitely helps in invoking some powerful emotions. The Netflix Instant stream is mediocre. The English subtitles have some grammar and spelling errors, but the picture quality is the worst -- it moves at such a choppy framerate. Director Choi Jin-ho does very well in developing the tense and conflicted atmosphere; I don't mind the melodramatic approach, and I'm very glad he didn't preach.

Overall, The Executioner is a great drama. The film's story is engaging and emotionally-powerful. It's also thought-provoking without being intrusive or preachy. There are some pacing issues and the film does skip on some of its potential, though. Definitely worth seeking for fans of emotional and contemplative dramas.

Score: 8/10
Parental Guide: Some violence and blood, and some very brief sex and nudity.

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