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
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
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.