[Movie Review] Seoul Vibe requires a joy ride by means of late-80s urban style
Netflix’s Seoul Vibe is a comedic action film that pits political corruption in 1988 South Korea against the indifference and bravado of a group of young drivers. It is an ode to the classics with retro retail scattered all through, from vehicles and camcorders to kicks and Kangols.
If you have observed any of The Speedy and the Furious franchise (which, admittedly, I haven’t) you will probably be in familiar terrain. Seoul Vibe has the very same summer season blockbuster really feel with a band of badass twentysomethings who dedicate most of their dialogue to speaking trash. Though the option of drivers as key characters would hint at street racing and vehicle chase sequences, these are only marginal to the overarching plot, which requires us into James Bond territory, cribbing its cues from spy and heist films.
The story opens with DONG-WOOK (Yoo Ah-in) and JOON-GI (Ong Seong-wu) returning to Korea right after a stretch functioning as drivers in Saudi Arabia. They’re content to report to their taxi-driving pal BOK-NAM (Lee Kyu-hyung) that they’ve brought with them the income to get on with their objectives. Their dream is to go to the US, exactly where Dong-wook’s mother currently lives.
Back in their dwelling city of Seoul, the 3 buddies go to their old clubhouse — aspect mechanic’s garage, aspect DJ booth, all 80s American paraphernalia. There they meet up with Dong-wook’s sister, YOON-HEE (Park Joo-hyun), who heads a biker gang, and their record-spinning pal WOO-SAM (Go Kyung-pyo), also identified as DJ John Woo on his mixtapes.
By this point we’re knee-deep in nostalgia with costuming detailed to emulate late-80s hip-hop videos (if you have never ever observed LL Cool J’s “I’m Undesirable,” now would be your time to watch it and evaluate). All through, we’ll be awash in Adidas tracksuits, fat gold chains, laceless Shell Toes, oversized glasses, and the ubiquitous Kangol hat. Add to this a handful of boomboxes, some coveted Jordans, and an Eric B. and Rakim record and you get the vibe of Seoul Vibe.
Ahead of the buddies can catch up as well significantly, PROSECUTOR AHN (Oh Jung-se) arrives. He lists a litany of their illegal activities. Dong-wook and Joon-gi brought a big sum of income into the nation without having declaring it. Bok-nam’s taxi is unlicensed. Yoon-hee’s bike has illicit customization. And Woo-sam, effectively — it is a crime to break hearts. Unless this group of not-so-motley misfits desires to be arrested correct now, the prosecutor desires them to go undercover as drivers in an investigation against the former dictator. If they succeed, he’ll wipe their criminal records clean. The constantly brazen Dong-wook speaks up: they’ll do it if Prosecutor Ahn can get them their US visas. And there the stakes are set.
The setup — which drags out much more than half of a film that is more than two hours — is this: the ex-dictator (“The General”) embezzled some public funds whilst in energy. He now desires to launder that income. PRESIDENT KANG (Moon Sori) is a loan shark and leader of the underground economy hired by The Basic to get this activity achieved. Her program is to provide the income in ten rounds to a variety of places (it is at present held in a vault inside a temple — nothing at all like film magic to see all these funds in money). She desires drivers to make the deliveries and she’ll spend ten million won for every single thriving transfer (which Dong-wook negotiates up, of course).
In a tryout run against other drivers — exactly where Dong-wook tears up the streets, stalls, and sidewalks of Seoul to the tune of Run DMC’s “You Be Illin’” — the crew wins the job. They are now positioned to acquire facts about President Kang so that the prosecutor’s workplace can take action against her (I was left a small puzzled about how they have been preparing to hyperlink the proof to the former dictator, and the film’s wrap-up does not seriously address it).
The second act lags as the group tends to make largely uneventful deliveries, basks in their newfound wealth, and seems totally disconnected from the political realities they’re taking aspect in. All of this feels like a continuation of the setup so the moviemakers can get to the aspect that appears to interest them most in the film’s final third.
As is vital with an ensemble cast, we arrive at discord amongst the group when the circumstance gets harmful. DIRECTOR LEE (Kim Sung-kyun), an employee of President Kang, is a sadist who terrifies the group by operating them off the road and pointing guns at their heads (and I cannot aid but image this actor as the goofball husband in Reply 1988, set in the very same year as this film, but on such a distinct wavelength).
Immediately after this, Dong-wook desires out of the prosecutor’s investigation but his buddies want to continue, obtaining deeper into their spy activities by going undercover at a hotel to get President Kang’s accounting books (which of course brings Dong-wook back about). In the interim, Woo-sam lives up to his heartbreaker status by playing the function of the homme fatale, sleeping with President Kang’s secretary to get them the crucial to get in.
What begins with vibrant colors and adolescent dreams all of a sudden has a significant tonal shift, turning dark with murder, torture, and mutilation. Though I identified this adjust hard to swallow, it is even tougher to shift gears and reverse when the film goes correct back to upbeat music and comedic antics right after these events. The darker scenes serve to get us to the final showdown amongst the scrappy drivers and the higher-level criminals, bringing the protagonists personally into the circumstance. And even though that goal might be fulfilled for the story’s sake, it feels meaningless when the characters stay unchanged, preserving their apathy and moving on to the subsequent joke.
If you came for the vehicles, they’re stacked up in the film’s conclusion. From the starting, we’re told that the Olympics are just about the corner (hosted in Seoul in 1988) and the final scenes function road races, gun fights, explosions, and much more gun fights — this time on a plane — all in front of an international audience amidst the Olympic games. Relying on closeups of tires spinning and feet pressing into gas pedals, its somewhat of an old-college chase. And in an action flick that adheres to the moves of its genre, I do not have to inform you who wins or how points resolve.
Seoul Vibe gives a largely lighthearted foray into the previous by means of a modern lens that speaks much more to the want for nostalgia than for historical reality. The retro high-quality comes by means of costume, colour, and music, but the garments frequently really feel like playing dress up, disconnected from the story. The music, present in the starting, disappears mid-way by means of. And the vibrant outside colors are paired with florescent indoor lighting that surely feels dated, but overshoots the upbeat 80s and lands someplace in disco.
Though all this tries to convince us that this is entertaining fare, what’s really taking place on the screen says otherwise. The film is cavalier in its therapy of the political context but even if we discount that, we’re left with a set of a single-dimensional characters who stay unaffected whilst people today about them die. The film desires to take us for a entertaining-filled spin but it is so indifferent to its topic matter that I cannot jump in for the ride.
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