K-Movie Review: Are ‘Phantom’ and ‘The Point Men’ Good Enough to Revive Korean Theaters?

the point men hyun bin

Edited by Hong Hyun Jung
Translated by Yu Jin Kim

the point men hyun bin
Credit: Plus M Entertainment, CJ ENM

All eyes are on whether Phantom and The Point Men will be able to captivate viewers during the Korean New Year’s holiday. Helmed by Believer director Lee Hae YoungPhantom features a star-studded cast of our favorite actors, including Seol Kyung Gu, Lee Ha Nee, Park So Dam, and Seo Hyun Woo. Meanwhile, director Yim Soon Rye’s new movie The Point Men portrays the bromance between Hwang Jung Min and Hyun Bin who teamed up for the first time in their acting careers. Will the much-awaited Korean films survive the holiday season packed with Hollywood blockbuster Avatar and Japanese hit remake The First Slam Dunk? So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the strengths and weaknesses of the two films.

Credit: CJ ENM

Director Lee Hae Young is pulling in audiences to his new movie Phantom with his name alone. Having superbly choreographed the story about a mysterious drug lord who goes by Mr. Lee in his latest movie Believer, many are already expecting a lot from his upcoming new flick.

Set in the Japanese colonial era, the upcoming film follows a group of individuals locked in a secluded hotel. Everyone in the hotel is suspected of being a spy known as the “Phantom,” planted by the Korean independence army to collect intel deep inside the Government-General of Chōsen. The film is based on a Chinese novel by Jia Mai, later adapted into a Chinese movie titled The Message. Phantom seems to overlap a lot with its Chinese counterpart, but the Korean version differentiates itself from the original work by beginning its timeline at a different starting point. The story reveals the phantom’s identity from the beginning and entraps the intel. Will the spy be able to dodge the eyes of the Japanese security official? The movie unravels the suspense through a tactical espionage action.

While Believer keeps its story heated throughout its entire running time, Phantom changes its genre halfway through and gives off a different feel as the story enters its second half. The first half’s plot unfolds in a cold and grim way as people in the hotel suspect each other to find the hidden spy in the hotel. Then, the story starts to run wild as the Japanese head official’s viciousness reaches a new low. The motive of each character becomes crystal clear, and the unexpectedly formed solidarity between the characters adds fun to the narrative.

Phantom offers lots of excitement as the psychological espionage film transforms into an action flick midway through the story. The battle and gunfight scenes between Seol Kyung Gu and Lee Ha Nee, involving other actors like Park Hae Soo and Park So Dam, provide a satisfying viewing experience to viewers.

Despite the actors’ hard work on their stunts and Japanese lines, the plot falls short of captivating. The ongoing doubt between the characters makes the story’s first half dull and meandering, and the plot loses focus as it drifts toward too much drama at the end, in spite of having a great set of action scenes. However, the diverse action scenes of Lee Ha Nee and Park So Dam are worthy of applause as much as the ones between Seol Kyung Gu and Park Hae SooEsom, who made a special appearance, also left a strong impression, and Seo Hyun Woo, who teamed up with director Lee for the second time, shows off his cute charms in the movie. (6/10)

the point men hyun bin
Credit: Plus M Entertainment

The Point Men tells the story of a group of South Korean tourists taken hostage in Afghanistan. When the tourists get abducted by the Taliban, a diplomat specializing in conflict resolution and a local NIS agent get dispatched to save the hostages.

The movie focuses on those on a rescue mission rather than the hostages themselves, presumably because it is based on a sensitive subject and an actual event. In 2007, a missionary group from Saemmul church was kidnapped in Afghanistan as they ignored the government’s demand not to enter the country. The film cleverly avoids any possible dispute that might arise from its subject by excluding the hostages from the whole story.

The Point Men tells its story from the point of two people who have polar opposite views and beliefs. The strictly disciplined diplomat and the fiery NIS agent lock horns occasionally, but they eventually work together to return people to their homes safely. Along the way, the Taliban’s warning, the tricky political climate surrounding the two countries and the timely action scenes add to the tension of the story.

In particular, Hyun Bin, who plays the rugged character with a full beard, fills the movie with brilliant action scenes, ranging from gunfights to motorcycle chases to battles on a running car. Many, including his fan, will love the movie as it features a great set of action scenes and an ample look of Hyun Bin. Hwang Jung Min, who filled the movie’s last 30 minutes, gives off a phenomenal performance and Kang Ki Young lets us breathe in between the serious plot by giving us a series of light tension-breaking interludes.

The Point Men did an amazing job of unfolding its story in the most immersive way possible by focusing on the situation itself rather than its serious subject matter. However, it’s a shame that there wasn’t anything new or refreshing about the actors’ performance. (6/10)


Edited Hong Hyun Jung: I am a K-content guide who publishes various articles for people to enjoy Korean movies and dramas deeper and richer. I’ll introduce you to the works that you can laugh, cry and sympathize with.


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