Nominated for Best Film in this year's Baeksang Arts Awards, this flick takes the classic Korean gunfight to the labyrinthine alleys of Bangkok, and entertains in the way most sweaty and blood-soaked hunting flicks can in under two hours.
The contract killer In-Nam (Hwang Jun-min) has just completed his last job and looks forward to “retirement.” However, a kidnapping in Thailand jolts him out of his newfound peace, and so he must navigate the slums and back alleys of Bangkok to find the child. Along with Yooyi, a drag performer he meets along the way, the duo tries to rescue the child before another vengeful hitman Ray (Lee Jung-jae) hunts them all down.
Not to be confused with the 2014 Hollywood exorcism movie, Korea's Deliver Us From Evil is notable for being the film that finally beat the Train to Busan sequel Peninsula at the box office. Did gangsters out- earn zombies? Yes, they did, and in the millions. And why shouldn't it, considering two screen legends star in it: the perpetual box office draw Hwang Jun-min, and the premium oppa Lee Jung-jae (both last seen together in the gangster classic New World).
A chase is always fun, but chasing the chaser is even more fun. We've not had a modern classic gangster flick for some time now, and that makes Deliver Us From Evil the perfect shot in the arm for pandemic-induced languishing. Although it has a number of contrived scenes (the author of this review lives in Bangkok, and believe me, you can't navigate the maze that is Bangkok this fast or this easily) and suffers some slack midway, it more than makes up for it by virtue of the film's arresting photography. Rarely do we see flamboyant fight scenes shot outdoors or in the daylight, but Deliver Us From Evil takes total advantage of its exotic Bangkok backdrop, from its sleek downtown metropolis to its squalid jails.
The action sequences are exciting and downright entertaining (watch for the gunfight involving tuktuks), the lighting perfect, and however paper-thin the plot is, the believability of the two leads manage to keep the film from descending into just another forgettable gangster mess. Providing the much needed respite from all the violence is the charming Park Jung-min who plays the drag performer Yooyi who helps In-nam (Hwang Jung-min) find the kidnapped child. His performance is so convincing (and his command of spoken Thai is quite impressive) that it's earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination in this year's Baeksangs as well
All in all, Deliver Us From Evil is major hunting-the-hunter fun, with some Taken feelz thrown for good measure. Nothing too deep or moving, but just some explosive fun that makes a great weekend watch.
Stream if: You're in the mood for something action-packed, or if you want to see how they play out the Korean gun opera in exotic Thai locations.
Skip if: Gangster violence isn't your thing.
Available on iQiyi