Deliver Us From Evil (2020)
A Korean assassin has just finished One Last Job when he hears that his ex-girlfriend has been murdered in Thailand, and the daughter he never knew he had has been abducted. He heads to Bangkok, where an associate introduces him to a Korean-born katoey who acts as his guide as he tries to track down the girl and her abductors.
To complicate matters further the sworn brother of that One Last Job is out for vengeance, and a bloody trail leads him to Bangkok too, where our hero is now both hunter and hunted.
DELIVER US FROM EVIL is being billed as THE DEPARTED meets The Raid: Redemption, presumably by somebody that has never heard of the concept "overhype" and hasn't seen at least one of those films - obviously it is actually Taken meets JOHN WICK... if we're doing overhype.
I don't know what the budget for the film was but lets assume it was low as it has the look of a shot on video cheapy - though at least it's HD digital video. Apparently this was the second feature film directed by Hong Won-Chan, though he also has credits as a writer on some notable films - e.g. THE CHASER, which isn't a million miles from this. It's functionally directed but not particularly artful, with little in the way of style or panache.
For much of the runtime I was drifting between "this film is OK" and "this film is pretty bad", with the story being just about interesting enough to hold my attention, but when the two killers eventually track down both the gang that took the girl and each other the film shifts gears into action mode and becomes much more interesting.
The influence of John Wick is very obvious when Hwang Jung-Min is methodically dispatching thugs with precisely aimed stabbings and head shots, though it isn't filmed with anything like the same level of technical proficiency. Lee Jung-Jae's character is more brutal, and when the two clash the fights get quite visceral. With each encounter the conflict ratchets up in intensity and ambition.
As far as I can tell the film is CGI free, and instead relies on good old practical effects for its scenes of violence and destruction. There's one particular shot where a car window gets blown out by a shotgun that really does look like that is exactly what they did to get the effect, and some explosions and car collisions that would have felt quite at home in 1980's Hong Kong. It also reminds me in some respects of a couple of Takashi Miike's Yakuza films, though more straight-faced.
It seems like whatever budget the film had mostly went on these scenes, and I guess I can't argue with that decision. Whilst it's not particularly sophisticated action it does show some imagination and gets pretty wild, you can tell that plenty of effort was put into it at least.
This isn't enough to make DELIVER US FROM EVIL a good film but it does mean that die hard action fans at least won't be too disappointed if they invest the time to watch it. There's not really enough action to make it a recommended watch, but there are worse ways you could spend an evening.