Sunday, January 11, 2009

Truck (Korea 2008)

An edge-of-your seat, high-suspense thrill ride...OK, maybe that's being a little too "Hollywood" in it's description, but Truck (트럭), aside from the ridiculously bland name, actually does a good job of fitting that description.

Truck driver Jeong Cheol-min (Yoo Hae-jin), leads a simple life as a single, widowed father to his seven-year old daughter Da-yeong (Lee Joon-ha). His daughter is his whole world, and it appears that he wouldn't have it any other way. Sadly, his daughter has a hereditary heart defect that ensures that she can't over-exert herself in a physical manner. It's work as usual for Cheol-min until he gets a phone call from his mother saying that Da-yeong had collapsed on the playground and is now in urgent care at the hospital. The doctor, unfortunately, has no good news for Cheol-min, as he informs him that he'll need to come up with $60,000 so that they can go forward with the heart surgery she so desperately needs. Immediately, Cheol-min does everything he can, from cleaning out his savings, to borrowing from loan sharks, in order to collect the money he needs. Still coming up short, an acquaintance of his tells him about a high-stakes poker game that he can get in on, and that he'll also help Cheol-min win big by giving him signals to let him know when to bet more. The game doesn't end up as planned and Cheol-min loses all of his money, chasing after the man who took it all. He ends up busting in on a gang boss (Kim Joon-bae), who murdered a room full of people. The bosses thugs explain the situation with the poker game and the boss gives Cheol-min an opportunity that will let him keep his truck and the winnings. Cheol-min must dispose of the corpses that the boss and his gang load into the back of the truck. Reluctant and afraid, Cheol-min begins his drive to a lake in the middle of the country where he hopes the bodies will never be found. Along the way, he sees a police transport vehicle wrecked, laying on it's side on the side of the road, and everyone inside is dead. It turns out the police were transporting serial killer Kim Yeong-ho (Jin Goo), and now he's nowhere to be found. After picking up Yeong-ho, disguised as a police officer, Cheol-min is unaware that he's assisting a serial killer in his escape. It's not long before Cheol-min discovers the true identity of his passenger, but due to the contents of his truck load, involving the police isn't an option. What does Yeong-ho want with Cheol-min? And will Cheol-min complete his mission in order to save his daughters life?

Writing up that "synopsis", I realized just how much is going on in Truck. It seems like almost enough just to have Cheol-min transporting countless dead bodies to be dumped in order to save his daughter, but that wasn't enough for the filmmakers. They threw in a serial killer storyline just to amp things up, and it actually works. There is genuine suspense in the interactions between Cheol-min and Yeong-ho. Unfortunately, sometimes inconvenient things happen for the main characters a little too conveniently. There's always a cop at the wrong time, or a roadblock with police checking out vehicles for instance. But it all makes for some intense moments and can be easily overlooked by simply wanting to see what happens next. The acting is excellent, especially from Yoo Hae-jin, and Jin Goo plays a suitably creepy serial killer in convincing fashion. It has to be said, young Lee Joon-ha is absolutely adorable.

I honestly didn't expect much from Truck, mostly because of the title. However, in a movie where the name is about as unimaginative as it gets, the actual imagination shown in the storyline is surprisingly good. Truck really is a great suspense-thriller that will have you engaged until the very end. (Lee)

Grade: A-


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