Movie review: Unstoppable action makes up for plot

Early reviews have been calling Unstoppable the South Korean version of Taken (2008).
Early reviews have been calling Unstoppable the South Korean version of Taken (2008).PHOTO: MM2 ENTERTAINMENT

Review/ ​Action Thriller

UNSTOPPABLE

116 mins/Opens Thursday (Dec 6)/3 stars


The story: Notorious gangster Dong-chul (Ma Dong-seok) decides to live a quiet, ordinary life after marrying Ji-soo (Song Ji-hyo). But when Ji-soo gets kidnapped, the skilled fighter sets out to find her and take down the kidnappers.

There is good reason early reviews have been calling this the South Korean version of Taken (2008).

Like the hit Hollywood movie starring Liam Neeson, this one features a furious father who will go to extremes to rescue a kidnapped family member.

In Neeson's case, he was on a mission to save his daughter.

Dong-chul, however, is out to save his wife.

The main difference with the two movies is that first-time director Kim Min-ho attempts to inject his story with more heart, intercutting the fast-paced action sequences with many emotional moments between husband and wife.

Despite his best intentions, the approach does not quite work because it only slows everything down.

Audiences watch Taken to see Neeson kick a**, not to see him emote - and that idea applies to this film as well.

There are so many unnecessary moments of the couple playfully teasing each other on dinner dates that the action does not kick in until 40 minutes into the running time. But the pair has great chemistry, and it would be fun to see them together in a romantic drama.

When the ball finally gets rolling, however, the film manages to remain thrilling most of the time.

There is one original action sequence that is particularly tense - when the villain demands Dong-chul to murder a henchman live on a video call or Ji-soo will be drowned.

It is a nail-biting scene that has you wondering if Dong-chul will intentionally kill someone to protect a loved one.

What is also thrilling are the moments where Ji-soo actively thinks of ways to escape and is unafraid to stand up for the other kidnapped women.

That is a welcome change when so many movies of this genre feature women as one-dimensional creatures or damsels in distress.