There are kick-ass telekinetic fights and plenty of handsome faces. But Seo Bok doesn’t tread beyond presenting questions worth deliberating.
Seo Bok (서복) Synopsis
Ex-special agent Min is near death from a brain tumour when he is offered a strange job by his former boss. Specifically, he is to escort the world’s first manufactured human to a new safe location. Things then expectedly take a violent turn when the convoy is ambushed and both Min and the “specimen” kidnapped. To further complicate matters, it becomes increasingly obvious that the specimen actually requires little protection. Seo Bok is not only ageless, he can effortlessly defend against bullets and bombs too. His telekinetic powers are strong enough to take down even an army.
Seo Bok has a long list of good things going for it. First and foremost would be how it’s helmed by two popular K-Drama stars. The younger one of which is familiar to even someone like me. (I.E. a middle-aged Singaporean “uncle” who neither watches K-Drama nor listens to K-Pop)
The near-future, speculative premise borders on the far-fletched, but is nonetheless fertile ground for a variety of ethics discussions. The telekinetic powers of Seo Bok, well, seems like an overt effort to emulate American superhero productions like Dark Phoenix. But in the end, who minds a bit of X-Men action on the side? I don’t.
Yup, lots of great things going for this Korean Sci-Fi thriller. Objectively speaking, this movie delivers most of what it sells itself with too.
What didn’t work, on the other hand, is the depth to which the movie ventures. This, the result of poor pacing and flow. While there’s no shortage of action, while the leads shine in every mode, the contemplative scenes are seriously too drawn-out. Most, by the way, do not offer any real leads about the questions involved too. They are purely rhetorical discussions that do not engage on deeper levels. Correspondingly, eschewing any vicarious insights.
There’s also a curious lack of humour, which I thought would be abundant in a thriller anchored by a hyeung-dongsaeng roadtrip of sorts. Inappropriate as humour might feel in a movie about medical ethics, don’t you agree lighter moments often expound life’s dilemmas better than tears or anger?
In fact, there’s only one sequence that genuinely tickles. It’s only a minute or so but I felt the simple exchange profoundly illustrated the relationship of the two leads.
That sequence also suggests, rather cunningly, that the super-powered dongsaeng is the one in charge throughout, despite the overt circumstances. What a pity, thus, that there weren’t more such glimpses of interpersonal dynamics. More would have wonderfully enriched the story.
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