Dad came back as a superhero!
‘Psychokinesis’ – Synopsis
A father with newly acquired superpowers sets out to help his estranged daughter before she loses everything.
Native and/or alternative titles: 염력
Countries: South Korea
Genre: Action, Drama, Fantasy
Director: Yeon Sang Ho
Writer: Yeon Sang Ho
Cast: Ryu Seung-ryong, Shim Eun-kyung, Park Jung-min, Jung Yu-mi
‘Psychokinesis’ – Review
Now I am not really a fan of superhero movies so I delayed watching this movie till recently. I just couldn’t get myself to pick Psychokinesis to watch but eventually, I did and I must say that I was very surprised. I actually did like the movie a lot!
So what is the movie about?
Firstly, the movie is psychokinesis. For those who don’t know, it means the power to move objects with just your mind! Amazing right? I would love to have this power!
The story revolves around an estranged father-daughter pair and a neighbourhood which is to be torn down to make a shopping mall in its place. The neighbours in the area come together and fight against the big-shot companies who are trying to reconstruct the area, essentially kicking out the residents with hardly any compensation.
In one of the struggles, a group of gangsters trying to bully the residents to leave, end up accidentally killing Roo-mi (Shim Eun-kyung)’s mother. Her mother’s funeral becomes the uniting event between the father and daughter. Roo-mi’s father, Seok-heon (Ryu Seung-ryong), who abandoned Roo-mi and her mother when she was younger and have been estranged since.
Seok-heon works as a security guard and leaves a very ordinary life until one day he, by-chance, drinks water from a stream which is zapped with superpowers from a meteorite which crashed to earth. After drinking this water, he develops the power to move objects with his thoughts, psychokinesis. Seok-heon then helps his daughter Roo-mi and the other neighbours to fight against the injustice and ruthlessness of the gangsters and the people behind them.
I thought that the movie was really entertaining and I enjoyed it all. The movie used subtle comedy and personification to talk about a social message. It was also directed beautifully and had quite decent special effects as well.
I especially loved Ryu Seung-ryong’s acting as Seok-heon. He was impeccable in his role as an estranged father trying to make-up with his fully-grown daughter and also as a superhero with telekinetic abilities. The good thing about the movie is that it was shown from a domestic or localized perspective. It gives a more insider view of the situation of unfair land acquisitions taking place in South Korea and pretty much most Asian countries. Now, certain scenes of the police force and military police coming in to contain a bunch of protesters may seem to be overdone but I feel that since it is an insider view or the perspective of the people involved, the police involvement and the influence of the ‘bad people’ involved may have been used as a hyperbole where the meek unarmed common people are trampled upon by the government.
Another thing that I liked was that Seok-heon, after discovering his powers, did not become the defender of the entire city or country. He and his powers were localized to the one event of a land acquisition, only because his daughter was involved. For me, this makes much more sense that a superhero discovering powers and suddenly becoming the defender of the universe (no offence to any superhero buffs).
The movie was entertaining and putting forward a social message which increased the appeal of the movie for me. I think I have mentioned this before but I believe that movies are a powerful platform and any movie which has a cause or makes an impact deserves a standing ovation from me.
What I did not like about the movie was that some of the scenes were really exaggerated which caused a break in the flow and feel of the film. Also, the storyline was very predictable which took away the excitement and anticipation for the rest of the film after a point. I believe this is also one of the reasons why this movie did not do so well in South Korea itself.
Many people and critics even went ahead to compare this movie to the director’s previous hit, Train to Busan. Both movies have a similar baseline story about a father-daughter pair who has a troubled relationship and the father who manages to gain back the respect and love of his daughter by emerging a hero in a difficult situation. But, this plot is very common in any film industry so the movie loses a few points in the authenticity department for me.
Something which bothered me about the story was the sheer number of loopholes and unexplained backstory. The movie completely overlooks how Seok-heon got his powers in the first place. It does give any explanation about the meteorite which crashed to earth, apparently unnoticed by the hundreds of astrophysicist in the world. There is no curiosity amongst the people regarding where Seok-heon got his powers from, not even the government who ironically link the powers to a secret North Korean weapon smuggled to South Korea.
Even in the end when Seok-heon reveals his powers to the world and destroys a lot of infrastructure in the main part of the city, there seem to be no consequences for his actions (except a bit of jail time in a normal jailhouse). People were not frightened or amazed by such a display of power, there were no explanations issued to answer how a man was suddenly jumping across the city over skyscrapers and flying in the sky. Everything ended on a very vague note which left me with a WTF feeling and several questions. So, this is the reason that the story loses major points in my opinion.
According to my opinion and the limited knowledge I have about Korea, I feel that this movie was trying to bring to light the issue of the dominance of chaebols (business conglomerates) in the Korean society without actually talking about it outright.
Chaebols are large business families which own the biggest companies in Korea and control about 90% of the Korean economy. In recent years these Chaebols have been facing flak for colluding with the government, bribery charges, trampling small and medium scale businesses, amassing the major assets of the companies and being above the law.
The most popular recent incidences being the bribery charges faced by Samsung heir, Lee Jae-yong, was indicted for bribery charges last year but got off with a very mild sentence. Similarly, in 2014 Macadamia Nut Rage Incident, Cho Hyun-ah, daughter of CEO of Korean Air, ordered a taxying aeroplane in JFK International Airport in New York City to return to gate and kick of the flight attendant who served her Macadamia nuts in the packet instead of a bowl. Cho Hyun-ah also physically abused and humiliated the flight attendant for his mistake (even though he was following flight regulations). She was indicted for 1 year but came out after a few short months.
The movie talks about a similar issue where a powerful company/business group is trying to take away the land through unfair means and they are powerful enough to avoid the laws, break rules, and even dispatch the police forces to achieve their goals. They work above the law and get away with crimes as well while the common people are left to suffer and fight to for their rights.
The ending scene of the movie shows a scene which can be interpreted in two ways (according to me), that the common people had a partial victory or that the Chaebols are taking their time to let the public opinion cool down and then attack again. But you could have your own interpretation as well.
I think the movie is a good watch if you are interested in a semi-intense movie with subtle comedy and great acting. But if you accept a typical superhero movie or something with thrill and suspense then I wouldn’t suggest this. The movie does have certain problems and loopholes and is not very impactful either. It can pass for a one-time watch but not a must-watch.
Have you seen ‘Psychokinesis’? What are your thoughts on it? Do you plan to watch it after reading this review?