Reviewed By

Christopher Armstead
Like most of those in middle management, Hyung Do (So Ji Sub) puts in long hours, has to discipline his underlings on occasion and has a boss that's a complete asshole.  Plus like a lot of middle managers who've been on the job for a while, Hyung Do is completely miserable.  The difference between Hyung Do's management gig and the typical management type job we are familiar with is that Hyung Do is a hitman.  He's a good one too as he is on the fast track from mid management to upper management. But we kid you not, in director Lim Sang Yoon's 'A Company Man', he is one miserable sonofagun. 

Our films opens with Hyung Do and a protégé Ra Hun (Dong-jun Kim) executing a particularly dicey job in taking out a protected witness.  The thing is that Ra Hun did all the hard work with the only thing Hyung Do was required to do was kill his protégé at the end of the gig.  That did seem a bit wasteful as Ra Hun looked to have some serious assassin potential, but then clearly I don't understand the management structure of the corporate assassination model.  Ra Hun did have one last request to Hyung before he was signed out.

Ra Hun had saved a few dollars in his short career and requested that Hyung give this loot to his hard working mom Su Yeon (Lee Mi Yeon), who, as it happens, used to be a pop star in a previous life.  This is also relevant in that Su Yeon's lone album was one of the few things that gave the orphan child Hyung comfort growing up, and he is immediately drawn to this woman.

Back at the job, things are going fairly well for Hyung, but we can see that it's a house of cards at best.  His boss is truly an insufferable jerk, the chairman of the company is nicer but
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we can tell he will put a bullet in your head if necessary.  But the worst part for Hyung is that he no longer has the love for what he does, if he ever did.  He often confides in his old boss, since retired, about what he should do… but like most old confidants in movies he speak in cryptic nonsense that almost nobody really understands.
Things become a little more complicated at the job when Hyung's immediate boss loses his way due to a personal tragedy, and a hitman who's lost his way is apparently a hitman of little value, resulting in the company taking immediate action.  Because of this Hyung gets a promotion which you would hope would bring him some joy, but all this does is just send Hyung, who is already a downer to hang around to begin with, into even more of a funk.  The only pleasure he gets are those quiet moments he gets to spend with Su Yeon, who is arguably the most pleasant person on the planet Earth. 

Ah… but Hyung has done some things, or more accurately he hasn't done some things which is going to sour his relationship with his company, forcing them to make some drastic executive decisions.  Decisions which are going to make a very sad man even sadder.  And a dangerous man even more dangerous.  Death will ensue.

On one hand director Lim Sang Yoon's 'A Company Man' is fairly typical for a Korean born thriller.  We have a morose, depressed hero who is lethal beyond all reasonable belief, a softening device introduced to humanize our depressed hero, followed by a life altering event which will be bad for just everybody else in the movie.  Nobody follows this formula as closely as the Korean filmmaker, so it shouldn't be much of a surprise that the formula usually works.  'A Company Man' works.  I wouldn't call it classic Korean cinema, but it is still entertaining Korean cinema. 

The twist in the ointment of the familiar is the corporate setup.  For any of us who have worked in a corporate structure, Director Lim has that concept nailed down.  Dark, depressing, pointless, back stabbing, crabs in a barrel… such is life in middle management.  Thus placing our anti-hero in the middle management corporate mire was an interesting take and ultimately an effective one. 

Now in between the opening hit and the final blowout, there isn't a lot of action in 'A Company Man' as it settles into… I'm not even quite sure how to describe it really.  I do know it's slow, as it is a bit of romance… but not really.  In fact Su Yeon almost comes off as more of a motherly figure to Hyung than a romantic interest.   This is where the movie gets bogged down a little bit as it gets wrapped up in its office politics and the strange relationship that Hyung is having with Su Yeon.  There is a little tension building as we can see through some of Hyung's actions that let us clearly know that eventually a few things are destined to hit the fan, but if one was to lose interest in this film, this would be the part when it happens.

Then there's the big shootout at the end.  Now nobody loves a big shootout more than me, and this shootout was pretty awesome when taken by itself, it's just in a film which is stooped in the mundane realities of life, at least as far as reality can take the concept of a corporate hitman, the shootout was about as unrealistic as it gets.  I mean it was fun to watch… but… you know… seriously?

Again, 'A Company Man' was still solidly entertaining cinema, just not quite up to the levels of some of the other similar films we've seen coming out of the land of the Morning Calm.
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