Dallas IFF 2013 Review: A COMPANY MAN Is A Bittersweet Life In A Wanted World

J Hurtado, Contributing Writer
You know what, I'm not even sure that I still get excited about the appearance of new Korean revenge thrillers anymore. It seems as though that's all that anyone is interested in now. Sure, very few national cinemas have managed to hone the revenge thriller to quite the same fine point as South Korea, but when do we reach the point of diminishing returns? Did we race past that threshold at light speed without even realizing it? It's hard to tell which way is up anymore in this game. At this point, the problem for me is that so many of these films are just really fucking good, thereby making me question my own exhaustion. A Company Man is just such a film. A tightly scripted, fast paced mix of action, revenge, and betrayal that doesn't do anything new but manages to reassemble the same old parts into a new variation that actually works. Go figure.

A Company Man opens with a bang. A young assassin, obviously a pro, blasts his way through a half dozen police on his way to x-ing out a rat under the cops' protection. On his way out the door after doing his dirty work, he meets with the even more highly skilled hands of his employer and ends up a blubbering lump begging for his life or perhaps just one last favor. Cut to said employer entering a large metal manufacturing office cum deep underground spy/assassin headquarters. This organization is highly secretive, naturally, and run by a real prick, to whom our leading man Hyeong-do (played by So Ji-sub) must submit to his own deep chagrin. Soon, "something happens" and Hyeong-do is pitted against not only his employer after failing to complete a job as directed, but also against people he thought he could trust. Cue the bullets.

At only ninety-six minutes, A Company Man is a very tight little film, and that works to its advantage. Even though there is more than enough plot here to fill out a typical 2+ hour Korean film, the action, direction, and dialogue are all extremely economical and the film plays somewhat like a Hollywood version of a Korean thriller, but in a good way. We're treated to revenge, a love story, a story of redemption, some betrayal, secrets, and lies, all in a very short space of time, and it works beautifully.

The story takes a little bit from many sources, or at the very least many different influences, which are relatively easy to spot. The secret assassin agency that literally exists behind a rotating wall in a break room is something out of a James Bond movie, or perhaps even Timur Bekmambetov's recent Wanted. The story line is nothing new either, an assassin/gangster being trailed by his bosses after not following orders is a story as old as time, but the one that jumped out at me in this case, perhaps just because of the language, is Kim Jee-woon's A Bittersweet Life, though A Company Man doesn't quite reach those emotional heights. However, if you're looking for a slick little thriller with a bit of heart, this should do the trick. I really enjoyed it.
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  • A Company Man is a good movie and also not so good at the same time.

    It feels like A Man From No Where but having it's own unique style.

    The action, especially the fighting is VERY unique and an eye opener. The problem with the movie is that the plot is not that strong. The pacing is too slow and can be boring. There isn't much character development.

    The movie tries to be bad ass, regardless of the weak niche story and no character development, this movie would have been re-watchable if not for the terrible ending!

    How could they ruin the rest of the movie with the gun fight ending?

    it was so stupid.

    I understand the main guy is extremely skilled but come on, after all the bullet shots, it's like he didn't get hit or the bullet hit were just 'scratches' to the body and arms.

    If I was to watch this again, it would only be for the fight scene, yet the fight scenes are TOO short.

    I've only seen a Man From No Where once, and I want to rewatch it again to see if it's a movie to own on bluray/dvd.

    I wouldn't even mind if A Company Man 2 comes out.

  • James

    Like Hurtado's review, nothing really new in the thriller + action + revenge genre but unlike the other reviewers here, I thoroughly enjoyed it. It is well made but nothing new or novel yet entertaining. It is better than any other action movie (local or foreign) that I have seen recently.

  • Jin

    i have to agree with bob that this movie is not good, it seemed to want to be high concept for the sake of being high concept, but made no attempt at carrying the concepts out thorougly, and the office shootout really seemed more like a parody out of Community if anything.

    also, even for its 100 minute running time it still lingers and lags.

    it also had internal logic lapse issues. it brings a lot of potential interesting topics to the table but in the end they are all left unanswered. in the end, id actually urge ppl to not waste their times with this movie because to me it was a frustrating viewing experience.

  • i disagree. I encourage people to watch this, at least once.
    If anyone likes martial arts or Man From No Where, this movie must not be missed!

  • bob

    I think this film is terrible. It's trying to be serious but at the same time its actually funny. The final office firefight scene is ridiculous. Ruthless female assassins who will follow orders at all costs? Silly movie. irecently watch paradise murdered(2007) and it was pretty good.

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