New York Asian Film Festival: Ordinary Person (2017) Movie Review

By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –

Perception is everything in politics, and managing that perception and diverting attention away from it is the first precept of damage control when scandal comes knocking.  And what better cover than a nice serial killer news frenzy?

Ordinary Person is about a fairly ordinary, certainly far from incorruptible cop, Sung-jin (Son Hyun-joo) in 1987 Korea who thinks he’s found himself a murderer, perhaps a serial one.  He soon realizes that if he plays his cards right, he may make exactly the powerful friends he needs to rise above his station.  But as his reporter buddy Jae-jin (Kim Sang-ho) constantly proves to him, this is one dirty game of poker.

A Toast

This film is suffused with interesting period detail- 1980s Korea is far from the modern day, but you see interesting vestiges here, and the political situation reminds you of how relatively recently this bastion of Asian democracy was under the thumb of a military dictatorship.

Sung-jin is an ordinary person indeed, seduced by power and privilege and all of the trappings of it.  He’s a bad cop who’s prepared to do what it takes to take care of his own, but who has a conscience, as unforgivably slow-activating as it is (hence, a beer to help you wait).  However, when he, and by proxy the film’s plot, get going, they really get going.  It may take nearly an hour, but the film’s third act is a maelstrom of betrayal, revenge, political double-dealing and backstabbing, and even uplift.  It even feels like the cinematography becomes more engaged and energetic.  The film finally builds to an interesting historical denouement, and ties everything into that struggle for democracy, the hard price paid for it, and its eventual reward.

Beer Two

It takes a good 30 minutes to figure out what this movie’s about, or what the driving plot motivators are anyway.  The ending also goes a very saccharine scene too long, after already wrapping up on the perfect note.

Beer Three

Sung-jin really stretches the definition of an identifiable protagonist- he does some truly heinous shit, and doesn’t seem terribly conflicted about it until too late in many cases.  Arguably his eventual conviction and action comes across more powerfully because of that, but also arguably he deserves everything that he gets.

Verdict

Ordinary Person is an interestingly conflicted tale of a bad cop drawn into a political game that may be too dirty even for his weak convictions.

Ordinary Person (2016) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for head slaps and other low-scale physical violence

Take a Drink: for eating

Take a Drink: whenever anyone says “Swifty”

Take a Drink: for foot chases

Take a Drink: for interrogations

Do a Shot: for dogs and hideous dog metaphors

About Henry J. Fromage

Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.

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