Friday, June 26, 2015

Film Review: Monster (2014)

Monster (Review)
Hwang In-ho/Lee Min-ki, Kim Go-eun/2014
Where to Watch:
Netflix Streaming
Amazon Prime

"...very quirky and even eccentric."

When her younger sister is murdered by a vicious serial killer, Bok-soon (Kim Go-eun) will stop at nothing to avenge her...

Monster primarily follows Bok-soon. Bok-soon is a young woman with a lot of heart and spunk. She's intellectually-disabled, but she rises above the name-calling with her sass and bravery. One day, a young girl, Na-ri (Ahn Seo-hyun), is abducted by a serial killer after her older sister's murder — a murder at the hand's of handsome but vicious killer Tae-soo (Lee Min-ki). Tae-soo gives Na-ri the opportunity to live if she can run away, but anyone she asks for help will be killed. Unfortunately, Na-ri asks Bok-soon and her sister, Eun-jeong, for help, which leads to Eun-jeong's murder at the hands of Tae-soo. Devastated by her death, Bok-soon bows to avenge her sister and protect Na-ri. Monster leads to a bloody climax and satisfying ending.

Monster is a bloody thriller/comedy. The plot starts off a little complicated as it introduces many characters and it even throws in a flashback, but it quickly irons itself out. There are also a few plot contrivances and holes — like a magical hidden camera that can somehow float. Otherwise, it's a fairly smooth ride. Although some important characters don't get to shine, we get a good look at Bok-soon and Tae-soo. However, the film's thriller and comedy elements tend to clash quite often. They don't really blend as seamlessly as one would expect. Instead, you have a very dark scene here, then an unusually quirky and charming scene there. This isn't something I'd consider a significant flaw, but it is an inconsistency worth noting. I could cringe during one bloody scene, then laugh during the next — but it always felt a bit off.

These elements work well in their respective scenes, though. The thrills are exciting and versatile. There are bloody fistfights, exhilarating chases, and tense games of cat-and-mouse. On the comedy side, this film is filled with quirky energy. Bok-soon conjures the most laughs through her sassy persona. I actually laughed out loud at least twice, and chuckled a few times. I especially enjoyed an early scene where Bok-soon frightens herself due to her forgetful memory. Some of the humor is a bit dark and some of it may even be offensive, especially if you're gentle towards cursing, but I genuinely liked it. Again, though, with both elements at completely different ends of the spectrum without a bridge to cross, it felt like I was watching two different films at once.

The acting can be a little over-the-top, especially since there's a running gag where Bok-soon and Na-ri always cry hysterically when they meet. Otherwise, the cast was strong. Kim Go-eun is filled with vibrant energy and sass, I loved it. Lee Min-ki embodied his cool and ruthless character well, too. The film is shot well. The cinematography was good. The music was fairly standard, nothing really stood out as terrible or exceptional — I'll just call it good. Writer and director Hwang In-ho crafts some very interesting characters with a versatile narrative. Although I thought the direction was fine, I felt the film lacked balance. Both the thrills and comedy excel on their own, but they don't feel seamless or connected the elements are too heavy-handed. It doesn't make it a bad film, but it makes it feel a bit off. There are other minor issues scattered throughout, but nothing significant.

Overall, Monster is a great film. When it's thrilling, it's very violent, tense, and exhilarating. When it's funny, it's very quirky and even eccentric. These elements didn't blend as well as I wish they did, but they were effective. There are a few issues in the writing, such as blatant plot contrivances and some holes, but I otherwise had a great time. I certainly won't be forgetting Bok-soon and her sass any time soon.

Score: 7/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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