Wednesday, May 2, 2018

Movie Review: Psychokinesis

Psychokinesis ** / *****
Directed by: Sang-ho Yeon.
Written by: Sang-ho Yeon.
Starring: Seung-ryong Ryu (Seok-hyeon), Eun-kyung Shim (Roo-mi), Jung-min Park (Kim Jeong-hyeon), Yu-mi Jung (Hong Sang-moo).
You would think that coming off of an international hit like Train to Busan, that Korean director Sang-Ho Yeon, would have something better up his sleeve than this tried blend of superhero movie, slapstick comedy and familial drama – but you would wrong. The film seems to want to be a superhero origin story akin to M. Night Shyamalan’s Unbreakable, but with a more comedic sensibility more akin to Hancock. But the film never really finds its footing.
Seok-yeon is a low level security guard at a bank, which basically requires him to do nothing all day, and that what likes. He steals coffee, and waits to go home and start drinking. One day, on the way to work, he stops by to drink some spring water – which happens to be contaminated by some sort of meteor. It is around this time that his daughter, Roo-mi (Eun-kyung Shim) gets in contact with him for the first time in years. Her mother has just died during a violent clash with a group of men trying to evict her – and others – from their downtown businesses, to make way for a future shopping center. Seok-heyon sees this as his opportunity to get back into his daughters life. He also soon discovers that whatever he drank has given him super powers – and he can now move things with his mind on a grand scale.
After the opening sequence – which features the death of the mother – Psychokinesis settles into an almost slapstick style tone for a sustained period of time – only giving way for a few serious scenes (like a funeral). Lead actor Seung-ryong Ryu delights in going over the top for his early scenes as a bank guard, and when he starts playing around with his powers – including a fun scene with a tie. He flirts with the idea of becoming a magician. But then the film decides it wants to be serious in the last act – it throws a lot of action sequences at you, as well as putting everyone in danger. The tonal shifts are enough to give you whiplash.
It doesn’t help that the movie doesn’t really make much sense logically. I understand fighting for fair compensation – which is all the business owners want – but by the end of the film, when they are essentially re-enacting the second act of Les Miserables, they had to know that wasn’t going to end well (seriously, what was their plan?). It’s also hard to take the bad guys seriously when they have been presented as such bumbling idiots throughout much of the film.
I will say that the special effects in the film are quite good – as are the action sequences, which are well handled and exciting – without overtaking the entire movie. Like in Train to Busan, Psychokinesis is at its best when it doesn’t stop moving – when it’s trying for nothing more than pure adrenaline. Unfortunately, this time, it takes too long to really get going, all the characters are too one note (poor Eun-kyung Shim who has to play Roo-mi as a boring nag) and the tone is all over the map. This is another big budget Netflix film that really goes nowhere – it’s little wonder that a filmmaker who should have had many opportunities following Train to Busan, ended up going straight to Netflix with his follow-up.

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