After starring in the successful action series Healer and The K2, Ji Chang Wook plays his first lead movie role in the big-budget action-crime-thriller Fabricated City and as expected, he takes it all the way to the top of box-office rankings.
The movie begins with an explosive opening scene as the Captain and his highly-skilled team enters a war zone head-on. Time is ticking but as they get closer to defusing a bomb, the Captain finds himself in a position where he has to make a choice: to go on by himself to clear their mission or go back to save a cornered comrade. He chooses the latter and his teammates are both shocked and impressed with his loyalty and craziness. The team accomplishes their task at the expense of the Captain’s life. Fortunately, these are just scenes in the virtual world.
Ji Chang Wook plays Kwon Yoo, an admirable leader of an online video game combat team. His real life, however, is not that impressive. He is a former national athlete who is now spending his days at a PC Bang (internet cafe) without enough motivation to get a decent job. His life completely changes when he answers a call from a phone that’s been left behind. The woman who claims to be the owner asks him to return it. He finds it troublesome but the 300 dollar-reward changes his mind. Kwon Yoo arrives at the place where the woman is but he doesn’t get to see her face. He simply returns the phone, takes the money and leaves.
The next day, he wakes up to the sound of the arrival of armed officials who barge into his home, cuff him, and take him away for raping and murdering a child. He doesn’t have any recollection of the crime so he refuses to admit it but all concrete evidences point out that he’s the culprit. Hence, he gets the guilty verdict- a lifetime in prison without parole. Things happen in a flash and before he can even make sense of it all, he finds himself aboard the vehicle to hell. I mean, prison. Well, they’re pretty much the same.
Ma Deok Soo (Kim Sang Ho) is the big shot in the penitentiary. Even guards look the other way when he violently welcomes the newbies but Kwon Yoo is not the type who yields. This makes Ma Deok Soo uneasy and Kwon Yoo becomes the target of daily beatings. The never-ending abuse pushes him to despair and his life hits rock bottom when he loses the only person who believes in him. So on his own, he vows to clear his name.
Following the advice of an old prisoner (Hey, it’s Defendant’s Miryang!), Kwon Yoo finds a way out of jail. While trying to avoid a nationwide manhunt, he takes refuge at the hideout of a techie social recluse.
The woman turns out to be one of his video game teammates. Yeo Wool (Shim Eun Kyung) uses her incredible hacking skills to help their Captain. One by one, their other teammates arrive. Together, they find out that Kwon Yoo is a scapegoat to cover up for an influential person’s son. And he isn’t the only one. There are other innocent people who are being used to pay for these wealthy people’s crimes. The Captain and his team revolt against their powerful chaebol adversaries. Will these marginalized online game players be able to survive this real-life deadly chase?
I am totally surprised at how much I enjoyed the movie. Probably because the last Korean action film I saw was Master starring Lee Byung Hun, Kang Dong Won, and Kim Woo Bin. It’s a slick flick but it’s a pretty dragging hackneyed police procedural. Fabricated City’s framed murderer main character is very typical too, but the execution of the story is more stylish and fast-paced with a spectacular Hollywood-like opening sequence.
Despite Fabricated City’s overall generic qualities, it manages to give us a hero to root for with a lead actor who perfectly plays the part. Ji Chang Wook covers the whole action genre with impressive shooting, intense hand-to-hand combats, and exhilarating car chase scenes. He also proves his versatility as he cries in some heart-wrenching moments. His charisma is perfect for romance but Ji Chang Wook and Shim Eun Kyung have zero chemistry. (I wish 38 Task Force‘s Lee Sun Bin played the female lead instead. She can totally match Ji Chang Wook’s oozing sex appeal.)
Oh well, since the movie doesn’t give enough emphasis to the romantic angle anyway, the nuances in Kwon Yoo’s facial expressions make his implied attraction to Yeo Wool even more heartfelt.
The antagonist’s identity is so easy to predict. Good thing they have versatile actor, Oh Jung Se, who can portray the role effectively in spite of being a two-dimensional character. His “secret room with a floor that turns into a giant tablet” is even more impressive than The K2’s “Cloud Nine”.
Director Park Kwang Hyun’s Fabricated City is action-packed, gizmo-filled, and romance-free. If it weren’t for the lackluster humor, it would have been a perfect popcorn movie.