By: Henry J. Fromage (Three Beers) –
Wait, The Boys Who Cried Wolf is a Korean mystery thriller that runs under two and a half hours? Is such a thing even possible?
Not for Park Chan-wook, not that I’m complaining.
This snappy pulpy concoction (82 minutes!) follows a blackballed actor Wan-joo (Park Jong-hwan) who’s now using his talents and good looks for shadier, gumshoe/gigolo jobs. When he gets drawn into posing as a witness in a murder trial, though, he finds himself quickly in over his head.
In a lot of ways, despite the largely effective surface convolutions of The Boys Who Cried Wolf‘s Noir-indebted plot, this is really a character piece examining the many complications of Wan-joo, a man who makes his living deceiving for either entertainment or profit. It’s easy to root for Wan-joo, but perhaps for the same reasons why everyone else seems to generally like being around him even as he continues to make bad decisions and display a complicated lack of, or at least conscious avoidance of, empathy. Admirably, the film avoids pat character 180s or third act lessons learned in favor of something more subtle and realistic. Wan-joo may have been changed by this experience, or he continue to survive through deception, even of his own self.
The plot, while enough to justify the continued digging into Wan-joo’s character, fades in interest as it continues, and by the time the mystery is resolved, there’s no real surprise or thrill to it. Any number of Law & Order episodes based on real-life events pack the same amount of punch.
People can be evil and/or confusedly horny in the military, who knew?
Writer/Director Kim Jin-hwang does will with the former, but not so much the latter. The direction is flat, with Kim displaying a TV drama skillset that is fully polished but doesn’t really elevate the material so much as present it in an entirely competent manner.
The Boys Who Cried Wolf at it’s heart is a deftly done character drama in the clothes of a run of the mill mystery film.
The Boys Who Cried Wolf (2016) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime Jong-goo freaks out
Take a Drink: for each transformed creature
Take a Drink: for any reference to mushrooms
Take a Drink: for rituals
Do a Shot: for those cat eyes (you’ll know, each time)