KOREA 2010 Directed by: Kim Cheol-Han Written by: Kim Cheol-Han Cast: Kam Woo-Seong, Jang Shin-Yeong, Lee Seung-Min, Choi Won-Young, Yun Ji-Min, Tak Teu-In, Ha Seong-Cheol, Kim Min-Jwa, Cheon Seong-Hun, Jang Suk-Hyun, Kim Min-Ki, Park Ah-In
THE OUTLAW is a movie that urges me to write my resume up-front – because THE OUTLAW is plain disgusting. Its on-screen violence is, its exploitation of the subject matter is and its rotten attitude is.
For the first half THE OUTLAW is painting a more than unrealistic picture of a nihilistic world of rape, torture, mutilation and 24/7 violent crime that happens just for the fun of deranged criminals. All that comes in a highly concentrated dosage, the dark part of our existence in a nutshell, but the way it is presented here surpasses every Telenovela or Lakorn by far. What’s supposed to be dramaturgy ends up being relentless razzmatazz. Everyone except the police and their spouse seem to be knife- and gun-wielding, cold-blooded killers. Everyone. Even friends, siblings, you name it.
It’s even worse when it comes to the movie’s intentions: it takes us down that ugly road only to justify the hero’s vengeful acts later. Even more, it manipulates the audience into enjoying the violence detective Oh inflicts on the delinquents. There is only black and white in THE OUTLAW, there are no doubts, second thoughts, there is no reason to not find revenge an appropriate method to create and measure justice.
Because injustice happens on so many levels, in so many forms, so overwhelmingly everywhere, and THE OUTLAW makes it so painful to watch that finally we crave for salvation. The icing on the cake is that THE OUTLAW is even stirring anti-American sentiment for its cause, as some of the criminals are of Korean-American descent and as US citizens are part of and protected by the US armed forces.
We are supposed to buy into an eye-for-an-eye religion – stopping short of killing in the name of god (what a coincidence that even detective Oh’s brother, a priest, is falling from grace and kills a woman related to him). On the surface THE OUTLAW makes us believe that Oh has lost his faith, but in a weird and hard to rationalize way it also suggests that Oh is the right hand of god, restoring justice on earth on god’s behalf. Accompanied by a funky soundtrack, dressed in a cool outfit, he does the work of an avenging angel. There is even time for funny jokes.
Some of the “creative” ways Oh stages his revenge later are so conventional that it turns this oh-so-hardboiled revenge flick into little less than a DIE HARD or SPEED rip-off, losing its edge quickly and turning into a mainstream action movie. The second half of the film then is also lousily directed, acted and choreographed. In fact, it is boring and as realistic as TOM & JERRY – the movie finishes in caper-style.
Altogether THE OUTLAW adds up to huge pile of depression and agony and decay, but nothing else. Sure, Oh becomes what the criminals are he’s hunting. And Oh repeatedly says that he will go to hell (just as his brother will for what he did). But at the end he’s getting away with it, celebrating victory, roaming in a chic summer suit, once more suggesting that he is actually on a mission from god. So what’s the point? As there are no consequences, there’s no learning. It all just made him (and supposedly us) feel real good.
The movie ends with the words “this movie does not represent real people or situations”. No shit.
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