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PostPosted: Sat Jul 08, 2017 7:33 pm 
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PARK KWANG-HYUN: FABRICATED CITY (2016)

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JI CHANG-WOOK AND SHIM EUN-KYUNG IN FABRICATED CITY

Video computer games, sadistic murder schemes, and teamwork among misfits

Wow, where does one begin to describe this big-budget Korean thriller starring a young unemployed misfit hung up on video games? Again David Fincher and Park Chang-wook seem guiding spirits in an effort that's director Park Kwang-hyn's first in 12 years. Park sets the bar a little too high with an opening sequence of Kwon Yoo (Ji Chang-wook) as "Cap" (the Captain) of a video game team engaged in an intense combat sequence. It hasn't much to do with what follows - except the actual people behind the game, with names like Yong_Guru, COV3R, DEMOlition, negativeSpace and Mr. Hairy, whose team name is Resurrection, come into play later. The sequences cost plenty and is pretty impressive. At the center of it is Captain, who is skilled, heroic, and known for being selfless in protecting his teammates.

Captain, Kwon Yoo, is a handsome young Taekwondo champion, but was kicked off the team for assaulting a fellow member. He seems to live with his long-suffering mom, who begs him to get a job. That ends quickly when he's called from the game room to return a lost cell phone to a girl. As soon as he's done so he's railroaded into prison sentenced to life for murder and rape, though the girl was in the shower and he never saw her, that he knows of. (There's a whiff of a suggestion that since he's an obsessive gamer, the line between reality and violent simulation may have blurred too much for him to know what he's done; but we know he didn't do it.) The public defender, Min Cheon-sang (Jeong-se Oh) is no use. It's a maximum security prison built into the side of a mountain that's full of brutes. Kwon Yoo is brutally beaten, but being defiant, athletic, and skilled at hand-to-hand combat, holds his own. Other prisoners not the ferocity of his "will to live." Not so his mom, who has been trying to campaign for a reexamination of the obviously manipulated evidence, but suddenly commits suicide. Despite this tragedy through the help of a serial killer Kowon Yoo escapes from the prison and returns to the city to find how he was framed and exact revenge. We are in Park Chang-wook territory, but with a unique new gamer vibe.

If you like action, this is your movie, because all this and more happens in the first 30 minutes and plenty is to come. Admittedly, the evil mastermind and his scheme are plot elements that are overcooked. But it's all fun.

Back in the "real world" (not) Kwon Yoo is a fugitive, and one of his main prison enemies, a ferocious gentleman known as Ma (Sang-ho Kim), has been released to help find him. But it turns out his game team - and others - are his great fans, and they are pledged to track down the real wrongdoers in what turns out to be a series of murders and frame-ups. They're one of those motley crews who become a gang of brothers. Sisters too: Mr. Hairy turns out to be a contact-adverse but pretty and hacking-brilliant young woman called Yeo-wool (Shim Eun-kyung) who prefers to communicated only by cell phone even when the other person is sitting next to her. Several of the men are older and accomplished; there's a range of talent here. The techie tricks fly fast and loose as they investigate the crime scene from which Kwon Yoo was sent to the clink, and they find similarities between that event and other murder scenes Mr. Hairy invades multiple computer files as well as CCTV videos clearly establishing Kwon Yoo's innocence. But they want to find who's behind the fiendish series of crimes.

Korean filmmakers are masters (or mistresses) of the choreography of violence, so when Kwon Yoo finally gets to beat up the evildoer behind the crimes and his mistreatment, you must appreciate the shifting motions of camera and the bodies as a dance. Nothing much new in the car chase, but the images are beautiful and the editing crisp. Sometimes we must be contented with over-the-top plotting and good production values. There's too much good stuff here - - enough for two movies; it seems that, twelve years from his previous feature, Welcome to Dongmakgol, director Park's brain was crammed with pent up ideas.

Fabricated City(Hangul: 조작된 도시; RR: Jojakdoen Doshi; lit. Manipulated City), 126 mins., and released in various countries in Feb. and Mar. 2017 and thereafter. Reviewed here as part of the 2017 NYAFF - showing at the Walter Reade Theater July 15 at 3 pm.

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