Park Hoon-jung has easily become one of my favorite action directors and writers with Night in Paradise and The Witch Part 1 – Subversion and its sequel, The Witch Part 2 – The Other One—and, of course, his screenplay for I Saw The Devil. In his latest film, The Childe, director Park uses his signature twisting narrative and ability to use violence to tell a story weaving together two characters that create a compelling and dynamic near dual protagonist structure. Starring Kim Seon-Ho, Kang Tae-Ju, Kang-woo Kim, and Go Ara, The Childe is one hell of a ride.
The Childe’s narrative revolves around Marco, a desperate young man trying to secure money for a life-saving surgery for his mother. An amateur boxer, Marco searches for his wealthy estranged father he’s never met, a Korean man who abandoned his Filipina mother. But after a lead takes him from the Philippines to Korea, he is relentlessly pursued by a quirky, attractive, and infinitely dangerous man just known as the Nobleman. But this nameless friend isn’t the only person after Marco. As additional entities all aim to take Marco in, chaos ensues, forcing him to ultimately confront a shocking truth about the family he’s trying to fit into that may cost him his life.
Marco is a fine protagonist. However, his life is quickly shown to be moving at the behest of those around him, whether through circumstances or direct action. He’s destitute, fighting as hard as he can to survive. A caring son, the world story moves him instead of his choices and actions propelling it. That said, once the film adds in the Nobleman in the middle of the first act, the narrative becomes more akin to a dual protagonist structure, as it bounces between the two. Who is the center of the film, and does it matter? The truth is, is that it doesn’t, and once you accept that and let director Park’s eye for action and thrilling mystery rush over you, you’ll be glad you did.
At its core, The Childe is a puzzling adrenaline rush that doesn’t explain itself until the final moments. What forces you to stay glued to the screen are expertly crafted chase sequences that utilize the environment in every way and stellarly choreographed hand-to-hand sequences. Throw in some rousing shoot-outs for good measure, and it’s clear that director Park knows the intricacies of shooting action for an audience and also casting actors to excel in every way.
Ultimately, The Childe is a tense action thriller whose driving force is Kim Seon-Ho. Infinitely terrifying and intimidating in his ability to switch between apathy and excited mania while terrorizing Kang Tae-Ju‘s Marco, as the Nobleman, actor Kim is an unstoppable force. Accentuated by his attractiveness and three-piece suit, the Nobleman is a psychotic agent of chaos that allows the film’s pacing to remain high octane. In fact, actor Kim’s performance is one of the best examples of a villain in recent action films. Cold, calm, yet manic, he’s everything packaged in charisma and humor at the same time. His ability to be both humorous and intimidating is a hard task and is one that sells this film.
As the film heads towards its last act, though, the script flips, and the safe haven that Marco is rushing for becomes a danger, making the Nobleman look different from the already violent Director Han, Marco’s brother. Additionally, the third act is where everything is revealed, but more importantly, it showcases the Nobleman’s skill when he’s fighting capable opponents. While at times the story stumbles, it never fails to pull you along, embracing action as a genre and walking the line behind an unhinged drive to fulfill a job and the limits of the body.
The Childe is easily one of the best action films of 2023, and it’s thanks to Kim Seon-ho and his dynamic performance. Able to switch from a deadpan stare to a manic smile, the Nobleman is a standout, and actor Kim’s strength in both his emotive performance and his physicality makes certain he belongs on any list of action stars.
The Childe is playing in select theaters now and will screen at Fantasia International Film Festival on Wednesday, August 2, 2023.
The Childe is easily one of the best action films of 2023, and it’s thanks to Kim Seon-ho and his dynamic performance. Able to switch from a deadpan stare to a manic smile, the Nobleman is a standout, and actor Kim’s strength in both his emotive performance and his physicality make certain he belongs on any list of action stars.