Friday, July 31, 2015

Film Review: The Con Artists (2014)

The Con Artists (aka The Technicians)
Kim Hong-sun/Kim Woo-bin/2014
Where To Watch:
Netflix Instant
Amazon Prime

"It is certainly generic, but also entertaining."

Ji-hyuk (Kim Woo-bin), a master safe-cracker, teams up with his fellow swindlers for his grandest job yet...

The Con Artists follows Ji-hyuk, a charismatic safe-cracker living the good life thanks to his many successful burglaries. When he steals valuable jewelry from a shop owned by gang boss Chairman Cho (Kim Yeong-cheol), Cho recruits Ji-hyuk for a job of massive proportions in the Incheon Customs – stealing $150 million from a high-security area within 40 minutes. Ji-hyuk is joined by his clumsy pal Koo-in (Ko Chang-seok) and genius, conniving hacker Jong-bae (Lee Hyun-woo). The film leads to the climax you're expecting – you know, where the film recaps every twist and turn for you – and a cheesy ending.

The Con Artists isn't a bad film. In fact, I had a good time, which is already enough to warrant a recommendation. The film starts off a little slow and the planning really isn't as thorough as I would've liked, but it kept me engaged. The second half of the film starts to develops a sense of suspense – you start to feel the stakes. There's an edge-of-your-seat car chase with vehicles of all sizes swerving and flipping, some large-scale melee, tense races against the clock, and even some shooting. Thanks to this balance in action and plot, the second half of the film moves at such a relentless and engaging pace. And, although I knew where it was headed, the twisted final act was entertaining – there were even a few moments I didn't see coming.

The most significant problem with The Con Artists is the core of the film. This is essentially a heist film – a movie about swindlers. In this case, the foundation of the film, the genre's DNA, is completely unmodified. The Con Artists doesn't take any chances whatsoever to differentiate itself from other films in the genre – it is exactly what you expect. Does this make the film bad? Well, no, I already said that. (Are you even paying attention?) It make the film feel very generic, though. This is part of the reason the first half feels slower than the rest of the film. Furthermore, there are also some very underdeveloped characters, such as Ji-hyuk's love interest, Eun-ha (Jo Yoon-he), and his mentor. These characters, unfortunately, play a significant role in the plot, but feel so hollow and insignificant, like if they were tossed in at the last second. I mean, most of Eun-ha's dialogue consists of her conveniently dictating her thoughts to the audience.

The acting is good. Kim Woo-bin flexes his emotional chops here and there, but, from the few films I've seen with him, he's still mostly playing Kim Woo-bin – a charismatic performances with some humorous quirks. Ko Chang-seok offers some comic relief, but I also feels he retreading to his character from Tabloid Truth. I suppose, if I had to complain about the acting, I'd use the same complaint from the narrative – it plays it too safe. The film is fairly standard otherwise. It looks great and sounds good. Director Kim Hong-sun crafts some great action sequences and thrills, and, despite the overwhelming familiarity and lackluster ending, he yarns the story together well. I wouldn't mind seeing more from Hong-sun, especially something with more personality and pizzazz.

Overall, The Con Artists is a good film. I might have complained a lot throughout this review, but that doesn't negate the positives I mentioned. It is certainly generic, but also entertaining. Sure, I wish there was more character and more personality – something to differentiate it from the rest of the genre – but that doesn't necessarily make it a bad film, especially since it's technically well-made. All I can say for certain: I had a good time. If you're looking for a swindler film and don't mind treading the same waters, or if you're just a big fan of the cast (I know a lot of you are), then I recommend The Con Artists.

Score: 6/10
Parental Guide: Some strong violence and blood.

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