Won Shin-yun’s breathless action thriller The Suspect is pure pedal to the metal adrenaline, but yet heavy on character and plot, so that by the finale, you’re totally invested in all of the various storytelling elements. I hadn’t heard of this movie until a friend suggested I see it, and thanks to Netflix streaming, this Korean ass-kicker should become a serious option for anyone looking for a high-octane antidote to the increasingly lackluster Hollywood action movie offerings. Centering on a top secret and ultra-lethal North Korean spy (the fabulous Gong Yoo) who is betrayed by his government and ends up on the run from multiple agencies, Shin-yun’s fast-moving actioner takes some sharp aesthetic cues from the hyped-up intensity of the Bourne movies and tells a thematically complex and astonishingly well-crafted tale of international espionage, using the man-on-the-run narrative conceit in a smart fashion, and allowing for some absolutely stunning action set-pieces to take center stage. We’ve seen the various plot ingredients before, but never done quite like this, and while the film could’ve benefited from some more judicious editing, I really responded to the character dynamics and the sociopolitical undertones to the screenplay.
There’s a mind-boggling car chase done half in reverse, shoot-outs galore, foot chases that seemingly break all the rules, and a tremendous sense of visual integrity in each and every shot. While watching a movie like this 2013 import, one becomes immediately reminded of how relatively barren and unexciting the American action film landscape has become. For me, with the exception of the visceral thrills of Paul Greengrass, the slick and gritty stylings of Michael Bay, and the promise that the John Wick-duo showed, there’s not much to be excited about. I’m consistently looking to the overseas action film market to get my ultimate genre kicks, which is how I was led to Gareth Evans and his two masterpieces, The Raid and The Raid 2. But something like The Suspect shoots up to the top of the charts, because it cares about all of the elements rather than just being a full on CGI-assisted sensory assault (whatever computer tricks that were used were flawlessly integrated). Exciting on nearly every level, exceedingly photogenic, forcefully acted across the board, and thoroughly rousing with an emotionally powerful and resonant final sequence, The Suspect is a true gem waiting to be discovered by action movie lovers.