Jo Pil-Ho: The Dawning Rage (2019) - South Korea
Reviewed by Andrew Chan (Film Critics Circle of Australia)
One of my biggest concern with Lee Jeong-beom’s “Jo Pil-Ho: The Dawning Rage” is the allusion to a much greater tragedy namely the Sewol disaster that took the lives of 250 students from Danwon High School. The fact that Lee never focused on this tragedy, but instead made it a cameo backdrop to introduce a dead friend, speaks volume about the film and overall intentions. The use of overtly dramatic dialogue, numerous cliches, constant overacting (lead actor Lee Sun-kyun, villainous henchman Park Hae-jun and seasoned evil rich corporate leader Song Yeong-Chang). Meanwhile the only decent character comes in the form of Jeon So-mi, but unfortunately only appears in the first half of the film. With all being said, this is one of those pretentious Korean action thriller that adds nothing to the already crowded genre.
Lee Sun-kyun plays the lead role and despite all his best intentions with intensity of the situation, the story and character develop are obviously lacking and repacked with foul language and strong passionate words to overshadow all these. Veteran Song Yeong-Chang plays the crucial role of the lead villain and evil corporate leader buried deep in corruption with government and corporate dealings. Perhaps his role shows the corporate powers in South Korea, where conspiracy amongst corporate and government played a part in the Sewol disaster. However, none of that directly alludes to the fact that the film remains a bystander in all of these circumstances, offering nothing more than bland character development. Young actress Jeon So-mi flakes best and attempted to create an actual rounded human character stuck within her own ill-fate.
All in all, this Netflix original feature fails to deliver anything special about corruption or the Sewol incident, instead it manages to highlight the pitfalls and cliches of many Korean crime thrillers nowadays. We are not looking for someone to reinvent the wheel, but intensity does not equal to quality and loudness of dialogue does not translate to a good script. It’s just a shame that “Jo Pil-Ho: The Dawning Rage” is more about their own rage than engagement of audience.
I rated it 5/10