Friday, March 16, 2018

Film Review: Manhole (2014)

Manhole (Review)
South Korea/2014
Format Viewed for Review: Netflix Instant
Netflix Streaming: No
Amazon Prime: No

"...suffers from mediocre execution..."

A serial killer, who uses the sewers of Seoul to kidnap his victims, captures a deaf 14-year-old girl while being tracked by her older sister.

Manhole starts off interesting. I like the concept: an unhinged serial killer uses the sewers to terrorize a neighborhood in Seoul. The plot follows four separate parties: Soo-chul (Jung Kyung-ho), the serial killer, sisters Yeon-seo (Jung Yu-mi) and Soo-jung (Kim Sae-ron), Jong-ho, a taxi driver who is searching for his missing daughter, and Pil-gyu, a clumsy policeman. After setting up the premise, Soo-chul ends up kidnapping Soo-jung. Yeon-seo, Jong-ho, and Pil-gyu—who were all following Soo-jung for separate reasons—end up entering the sewers through a manhole. From there, all of the characters basically run around while trying to save Soo-chul or while trying to figure out what's going on. Due to its repetitive formula, it does end up losing some steam during its second half. I liked the ending, though. I thought it was effective.

Before I proceed, I want to say: I enjoyed Manhole. I think it's a decent time killer. The concept is unique, the setting is eerie, there are plenty of suspenseful moments, and it ends on a high note. The film suffers from mediocre execution, though. The first act is interesting, but it ultimately fails to properly introduce and develop all of its main characters—probably because there were too many for its own good. So, although there are some emotionally effective scenes here, you won't really feel a true connection with anyone, which is disappointing. Some the characters—Pil-gyu—are also painfully cliché. The plot is contrived, too, filled with plenty convenient 'yeah, right' moments. At times, it's too reliant on those moments to move the plot forward, which makes the writing feel lazy. At around 100 minutes long, the film feels like two hours because of some filler, too. These issues stop Manhole from excelling beyond 'decent.'

The acting was great, though. Kim Sae-ron, who was fantastic in A Brand New Life and The Man from Nowhere, delivers another great performance. Jung Kyung-ho and Jung Yu-mi also offered strong supporting performances. The film was shot well, too. I don't remember much of the music, though. The film was written by Shin Jae-young and Moon Bong-seop; Shin also served as director. The writing needed some work, especially in terms of character. The structure could have been fine-tuned, too. It's lopsided, cramming too much plot into the first act while allowing it to thin out for the last hour. The direction fared a bit better. Shin Jae-young crafts some suspenseful sequences while confined to a unique setting—at least for a film like this.

Overall, Manhole is a decent movie. It's an entertaining thriller, so, if you need to kill an hour and half, this isn't the worst film you can watch. However, it does suffer from some disappointing issues, including a lack of compelling characters, a bloated runtime, and plot contrivances. It's worth a cheap rental or stream.

Score: 5/10
Parental Guide: Strong violence and blood.

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