Streaming Review

Deliver Us from Evil review – slick and serviceable Korean action-thriller

This fun and violent chase movie features a standout performance from Park Jung-min, though often feels derivative of better films

This hard-hitting South Korean thriller from filmmaker Hong Won-chan is optimistically described in the marketing as a cross between The Raid and The Departed. There’s perhaps an element of wishful thinking involved here, since it doesn't really evoke the former’s giddy choreography or claustrophobic setting, nor does it recall the gripping twists of Martin Scorsese’s gangster remake (or that film’s Hong Kong original Infernal Affairs). Still, there's fun to be had.

With a title that makes it sound like a horror film, the bone-crunching antics of Deliver Us from Evil do a rather consistent job of alternately holding your interest and testing your patience. It just kept me on its good side – though it’s very slow to start, with far too many interchangeable scenes of tough-talking gangsters wearing sunglasses and threatening to kill one another, in person and over the phone, but picks up nicely up after forty minutes once the action shifts from Tokyo to Bangkok.

The story feels like a mash-up of countless successful Korean action films, landing somewhere between The Chaser and The Man from Nowhere. Hwang Jung-min plays an assassin who's pulled back in for one last job – to rescue his own nine-year-old daughter from a ring of organ harvesting mobsters. To achieve this, he teams with Yui (Park Jung-min), a transgender woman whose presence – coupled with Park's winning performance – gives the film it's most unique and interesting dimension. Events unravel in a kind of odd couple manner as these unlikely allies are thrown into a cat-and-mouse scenario against a ruthless, crazed killer hellbent on revenge, played here by Lee Jung-jae.

There are a few niggling issues. This is yet another film that presents Thailand through an unnecessary, urine-stained filter, scenes saturated with a distracting yellow tint. Elsewhere, Hong frequently interrupts the flow of the action with flashes of slow-motion that only serves to inflict them with an awkward dated feel. The characters, aside from Yui, are nothing to write home about, either: we get the typically stoic protagonist on the brink of retirement; a psychotic villain with a knack for randomly killing his own henchman.

The cinematography is nice enough, but it's in the action sequences where the film thrives (a late-stage stairwell fight with a silenced pistol is particularly accomplished), though the movie does earn points for the unpatronising and three-dimensional way it treats its transgender co-lead. Deliver Us from Evil is not a patch on the films it wants to be, and there’s a messiness to the way the gangster plots blend into one another that makes it hard to keep track of what’s going on. Little will stick, but fans of this particular breed of Korean thriller will still probably find it lands more blows than it misses.

Deliver Us from Evil is now available on various streaming services.

Where to watch

More Reviews...

MLK/FBI review – vital corrective to the history of Martin Luther King

Sam Pollard's essential documentary explores the brutal FBI campaign against Dr. King and finds a villain in J. Edgar Hoover

Ham on Rye review – oddball indie is both joyful and jarring

The awkwardness of teenagedom is captured in an enigmatic coming-of-ager that seems to tell everything and nothing at once

Blithe Spirit review – Noël Coward adaptation is awkwardly out of time

An impressive cast, including Judi Dench, Dan Stevens and Isla Fisher, can't quite pull this classic play into the 21st century

Dear Comrades! review – bleak study of Russia’s brutal history

Andrey Konchalovsky's black-and-white reconstruction of a state-sponsored massacre is rigorous and powerful, but very hard to love

Features

Best Films to Stream This Week in the UK

With the country in lockdown, we highlight the best new streaming releases, from moving dramas to essential documentaries

Netflix Announce Plans to Release a New Film Every Week in 2021

Gal Gadot, Dwayne Johnson and Ryan Reynolds united to explain the streaming giant's ambitious plans for the next twelve months

What Is the Best Extended Take in Cinema?

To coincide with Pieces of a Woman and its remarkable 24-minute continuous shot, our writers weigh in on their favourite long takes

Every Pixar Film, Ranked

With their latest, Soul, now on Disney+, Ella Kemp braves the entire Pixar canon and sorts the misfires from the masterpieces...