A hitman is thrown into a chaotic cat-and-mouse game, just minutes away from retirement in Hong Won-chan’s action thriller.
“You promised to take one last job.”
These famous last words are directed at In-nam (Hwang Jung-min), a hitman who’s about ready to throw the towel in and retire to Panama, where people apparently go to escape the law. The job is simple, really: assassinate the head of a yakuza branch (Kosuke Toyohara). The job goes off without a hitch, but it attracts the attention of psychotic gangster Ray (Lee Jung-jae), who vows revenge on the killing of his brother.
In-nam’s plans to leave it all behind are put on the backburner when he learns an old flame’s daughter Yoo-min (Park So-yi) – and likely his own – has been kidnapped and her mother killed. He races to Thailand, buddying up with pre-op trans woman Yui (Park Jung-min) in order to track down the child traffickers who stole his daughter, all the while Ray leaves a trail of bodies in his vengeful wake.
Deliver us from Evil gets off to a bit of a rocky start, I’ll admit. The story is relatively straightforward, but the changing timeline and character perspectives in the first twenty or so minutes could result in a few people checking out before it really has time to shine. The film grows on you, and once the plot streamlines itself into the two interweaving narratives, it’s really picked up pace and fires on all cylinders until its inevitably violent climax.
This has something to do with the fact that those two plots – that of the kidnapped girl and Ray’s vendetta towards In-nam – have nothing to do with one another. It makes for good conflict, of that there’s no doubt, but it does make me think how simple rescuing Yoo-min would have been if Ray didn’t keep showing up to wreck everyone’s day. On the one hand, I appreciate the realism in acknowledging that not every obstacle in your path is directly related to the job in front of you but it does mean that Ray becomes less a character and more a plot device, thrown into a scene whenever there needs to be a bloody shootout.
That said, Hong Won-chan’s direction is excellent. There are plenty of visually strong moments, from the use of colour to differentiate between Japan, Korea and Thailand, and some less-than-subtle (but still very effective) imagery, such as the wall of missing child posters at the police station: a strong visual that all but guarantees to the audience and a grieving Young-joo (Choi Hee-seo) that Yoo-min is never going to be found through traditional means. He also gets excellent performances from the cast, notably Hwang Jung-min, who showcases In-nam’s many sides with skill throughout, and Park So-yi, who is as cute as she was in Pawn, even if she has close to no lines in the entire film.
In the end, Deliver Us from Evil is a solid thriller with enough of what you’re looking for to keep you entertained, even if it doesn’t quite reach the heights of some of Korea’s other genre staples. The action is fun in a lot of places, and while the characters aren’t always the deepest, Deliver Us from Evil gives us an excellent pairing with In-nam and Yui. I’d happily watch a buddy cop show featuring the two of them, though maybe one with a few less black market children’s organs.
Verdict: While never leaning too heavily on the action pedal, Deliver us from Evil is a decent though not perfect crime thriller, though it really doesn’t make Thailand look particularly good.
Overall entertainment: 7.5/10
Weapon of Choice: Garden sheers
Ray: Replace your lack of personality with outrageous clothes
How to stop a car: T-boning is the only way. Maybe also a grenade.
Deliver Us from Evil (2020)
Also known as:
Korean, Thai, Japanese
Director: Hong Won-chan
Writer: Hong Won-chan
Hwang Jung-min – Kim In-nam
Lee Jung-jae – Ray
Park Jung-min – Yui
Choi Hee-seo – Seo Young-joo
Park So-yi – Yoo-min
Song Young-chang – Kim Chun-sung
Lee Seo-hwan – Lee Young-bae
Oh Dae-hwan Han Jong-su
Park Myung-hoon – Shimida
Kōsuke Toyohara – Koraeda
Sumet Ongart – Police officer