One of the joys of watching films to write about is having access to movie that might not otherwise appear at the local theater. Foreign films have long been thought of as artistic films with little story and intense visuals that most film goers are left confused by. But the fact is that the influence of Hollywood has stretched worldwide and more and more movies from overseas are using patterns first established here and then translated into the cultures of those countries.
Korean films have been moving at a swift pace to outdo the action films made here in the US. That’s not a bad thing as things come full circle and there films then influence English speaking directors to up their game as well. The end result is better movies for all. Well Go has made a name for themselves by bringing some of the best films the Asian market has to offer to DVD and in turn accessible to more people. Such is the case with BELIEVER.
Won Ho (Jin-Woong Cho) is a dedicated police officer whose biggest desire is to bring down the mysterious Mr. Lee, Korea’s worst drug lord. Ho is motivated by honor as well as obligation as a teen informant he sent in undercover was murdered by Lee. It’s a spirit that haunts him and drives him forward.
The top echelon of Lee’s organization are killed with the exception of one lady late for the meeting she turns herself in to help capture Lee. Before she can provide them with a lead she is killed in the police station, poisoned with meds intended to help her. Fortunately it turns out there two other survivors of the explosion, a young man named Rak (Jun-yeol Ryu) and a dog. Rak’s mother was killed in the blast and the dog severely damaged. He offers to help the police capture Lee in revenge.
Rak helps the police set up a sting operation to capture the Chinese man importing the raw materials needed to make the drugs Mr. Lee distributes as well as to help catch Lee. Ha-rin (Ju-hyuk Kim) is the crazed Chinese drug lord, prone to violence and sampling his own product. He nearly kills Rak and Ho posing as representatives of Lee. Having sampled too much he leaves them to themselves and leaves the room, setting up a second meet before doing so.
Using the meeting to help him understand how Ha-rin behaves, Ho poses as the Chinese before meeting with Park Sun-chang (Hae-joon Park), Mr. Lee’s right hand man and the boss of Rak. Ho displays the same violent tendencies to pull off the impersonation and demands to see Lee personally. Sun-Chang apologizes and offers him the chance to try out their product. Before Rak can substitute the fake vial he’s carrying Sun-chang presses to allow Ha-rin/Ho a new item they’ve made. Ho takes the drug to keep his cover intact and dismisses Sun-chang.
The team rushes in to help revive Ho, nearly dead from the single use of this new drug. Having not been aware of the drug but seeing that Rak was, the trust developed between the two fades. But Rak continues to help the team by providing them with chemists who will take the raw materials Ha-rin is sending and turning it into the product Lee wants. With both in hand the team can then capture all involved.
But things don’t go as planned. Crosses and double crosses take place. More characters that are possible candidates are introduced along the way. Every boss down the line that Ho has dealt with has at one time or another claimed to be the elusive Mr. Lee. Just who he is and his motivations for what he does are not revealed until late in the film.
The movie is action packed but not in the way you would expect. Sure there are plenty of explosions and gun fights, hand to hand battles and beatings that will make you cringe. But it is the story that motivates everything you see on screen here. And that story pulls you in and makes you wonder who Lee is and if he will ever actually be captured.
I have to note that the cinematography here is magnificent. There are so many great shots in this film from a long drive on a snow covered road to scenes inside the drug plant to meetings held in opulent hotel suites. All are done splendidly.
While the words are Korean and not English it doesn’t prevent the viewer from seeing the great performances on display here as well. Jin-Woong Cho as Ho displays the determination to get the job done while at the same time showing the tragedy early on that haunts his every move. Jun-yeol Ryu as Rak is a character doing what it takes to survive but keeping something hidden at the same time. And Ju-hyuk Kim is completely over the top in what was to be his final role having died in a car crash after filming.
Take the chance and don’t let subtitles put you off from enjoying this action film with plenty of story on hand that will draw you in and hold you tight from start to finish. Far too many are frightened by subtitles. Don’t be one of those. Discover that world cinema has much to offer. And then realize that Well Go is bringing you the chance to see a part of it.