Time this lil’ Catgirl had herself a change of pace from all the straight up horror, fantasy, or scifi she usually indulges in. This time out I’m reviewing the new Korean suspense film “Truck” for you….. but don’t worry, I haven’t strayed tooo far from familiar territory, this one has a serial killer… a poor overwrought father forced to do the unimaginable to save his little daughter… violent gangsters… and a truck full of dead (and maybe not so dead) bodies aimlessly roaming the rainy highways of South Korea. Yep… I think it’ll do.
Our quick synopsis reads: “Cheol-min makes a living by working in the shipping business. He has a daughter suffering from a heart condition, and in need of surgery. To save his daughter, he urgently needs the tremendous amount of 60,000,000 won. To make this money, he gets involved in dangerous illegal gambling and barely saves his life by promising he will take care of body disposal for the gang. On his way to Gangwon-do where he intends to dump the bodies, he encounters a police van that had been in an accident, and ends up giving the police officer a ride. Although this situation is tense, events take a turn for the worse.”
Soooo, interesting enough for you you want to “Read On”? I thought so….. Hehehehe!!
This one starts out by introducing us to hard working independent truck driver Jeong Cheol-min (played by Yoo Hae-jin) and shows us how he makes a slim living hauling freight for small businesses that can’t afford to deal with the big transport companies. You know how nearly broke he is by the way he has to con himself little extras like sharing a meal with his customers…. even helping to slaughter a pig for his supper. He’s squeamish about that, and it helps to set the tone for this poor guy later on when things get really bad. He’s got a cute little daughter… Da-yeong (played adorably by little Lee Joon-ha) that he treasures more than anything alse in his life. He can’t see her as much as he’d like… his job keeps him sooo, sooo busy, and he constantly worries about her. Seems she has the same heart defect that killed her mother…. and it’s his worst fear that she’ll suffer the same fate.
Of course that’s exactly what happens…. shy, lonely little Da-yeong ends up having a heart attack while trying to play with some other little girls who tease and trick her into exerting herself too much at the playground. The doctor tells Cheol-min that only a heart transplant will save her… that luckily there is a compatible donor available… but that he’ll need to come up with 60,000 won to “outbid” a rich man who wants that heart for his son. What’s a poor but honest trucker to do?
Well… he sells what little he has… borrows all the money he can get, even from crooked loan sharks, tries even to sell his truck, except that nobody will give him anywhere near what it’s worth. Stupidly he even gets tricked into risking it all playing poker with some gangsters….. and naturally loses everything. He goes crazy when he finds out the “helpful” guy who got him involved was nothing more than a payed shill for the gang…. while chasing him down for revenge, he makes the even bigger mistake of discovering the Mob boss himself surrounded by a pile of bodies….. Oooops!!
That’s almost the end of him right there and then… luckily the cops show up and a quick deal gets struck…. if he takes the bodies away… sees that they disappear and keeps his mouth shut, he can keep his truck, his life, and even the money he’ll need for Da-yeong’s operation. It’s a deal with the devil… but it’s the only shot he’s got…. and hey, things couldn’t get any worse, could they? Ummmm.. never ask that question…. things can always get worse…
Seems everywhere he goes, there are police roadblocks…. not exactly what you want to run into with a pile of corpses under a tarp….. and worse, his truck is bleeding. Oozing, really…. but hey, Cheol-min just knows somebody’s gonna notice. Thank goodness it starts to rain, washing all that incriminating gore away… now if he can just make it to the lonely reservoir to dump the bodies, he’s home free. Until he happens upon the accident. A police van run off the road… full of even more corpses, and a badly injured cop too, but he can’t call for help…. he’s got that little problem in the truck, see. He hates to do it, but he drives away… promptly hitting an injured policeman who lurches out of the high grass looking for help. Just what he needs. He doesn’t kill him…. but the policeman tells him that serial murder Kim Yeong-ho caused the crash while being taken for execution….. he’s now on the loose and only the cop knows exactly where he’ll strike next. He promptly commandeers Cheol-min to drive him in pursuit of this dangerous killer… much to Cheol-min’s dismay. Yep…. it can get worse than even this….. You like Neko will figure out immediately that the “policeman” is none other than the serial killer himself, but the film does try to hide it…. just not well enough…. You won’t be surprised when Cheol-min finds the wanted poster with his picture on it at a convenience store bathroom… Meanwhile…. the real police figure out that Kim Yeong-ho is in a truck…. they begin a dogged pursuit, always one step behind… or is that one death behind?
Pretty soon the cat is out of the bag… and to save his life Cheol-min tells Kim about the bodies…. tells him he’s a far more dangerous murderer than Kim…. and that there’s no need to kill him, he’s certainly not going to report anything to the police with his own guilt to hide. It almost works…. but then fate, in the shape of a poor traffic cop, intervenes to mess things up but good. Kim ends up killing him… and making Cheol-min take part to ensure he been telling Kim the truth…. While they load the body, three poor guys drive by in a car…. and Kim forces Cheol-min to chase them down…. there can be no witnesses you see…. Here the film is at it’s best… you’ll squirm uncomfortably as Cheol-min kills one of those guys accidentally trying to brain Kim with a rock. Circumstance after terrible circumstance just keeps digging a deeper hole for our poor trucker. You just know this can’t end well…. but at least it can’t get any worse, right?…… Wrong.
Driving along…. Kim tells Cheol-min that if he takes him to his home, he’ll part ways with him…. but a rough road causes the tailgate to pop open and drops a body out on the road…. Luckily Cheol-min spots it and gets out into the rain to reload the corpse so they can get moving. While this happens, one of the bodies turns out not to be so dead after all. Bloody… confused and scared, a bar girl named Han Saet-byeol has somehow survived the beating she took from the gangster boss, awoken beneath the tarp, and now she wants help from Cheol-min. He knows that if Kim finds her, she will end up dead… and probably him as well. Can life dump any more grief on poor Cheol-min?
Well…. of course it can. By now the police are closing in…. they’ve figured out where Kim is really going. His psychiatrist’s home…. seems he got a bone to pick with her about the decision she made to report him as sane…. especially given that it was leading him towards execution. He wants a second opinion… and this time he’s pretty certain he can convince her just how homicidal and psychotic he really is. Even if it kills her.
Here we reach the climax of “Truck”…. Yes… Yes… Kim knows that the girl in the back is alive, he’s got those creepy serial killer senses that just tell him that stuff…. he also knows Cheol-min’s been lying all this time and he’s already primed himself to kill his psychiatrist…. her husband…. the girl… and our hero too. He’s figured out Cheol-min is by nature too soft hearted to fight like he needs to…. but he hasn’t figured on Cheol-min’s desire to survive for little Da-yeong’s sake. He just has to…. he promised he’d take her to see the ocean, and it’s a promise he’ll kill to keep. There’s a fight here…. nasty, rolling in the mud, using anything and everything to hurt the other guy…. the kind of fight Kim lives for. Somehow though, Cheol-min pulls it together and prevails…. a chunk of glass to the eye sorta helps there, but hey…. Kim deserves it.
You think it’s finally over…. the psychiatrist rushes off to the hospital with her wounded husband… Cheol-min and Saet-byeol drive to the reservoir to dispose of the corpses. End of story, right? Nope….. Kim’s still alive, he kills poor Saet-byeol and we’ve got just enough time for one final fight, before the police arrive.
Here Neko thought she knew what would happen…. that with the police closing in, no possible way Cheol-min can explain all this, and the serial killer who can’t be allowed to escape and go after little Da-yeong in revenge, Cheol-min should have gone down fighting taking the killer with him in true heroic fashion. After all… wouldn’t her father’s heart have been a perfect match for his ailing daughter? That would have made for a nice if melodramatic ending. But no…. here the film takes it’s fine atmospheric buildup and squanders it for a lame fade to black after the police shoot down Kim, and arrest Cheol-min. A voice-over news report mentions the Killers apprehension, the arrest of the gangsters, and we end with a sweet beach scene between father and, apparently now healthy, daughter. Sweet…. but soooo totally wrong for the rest of the film. BOOOOO!!!
This is a well made film…. Yoo Hae-jin’s portrayal of Cheol-min is dead on, with that “everyman” quality that makes you want everything to turn out alright in the end, but the filmmakers betray the story by giving in to the impulse to paint the rosy ending…. it’s just too improbable…. (Neko assumes he got a deal for his cooperation with the police, but how did he afford Da-yeong’s operation then?) The atmosphere is good too…. with the constant rain becoming almost a character in itself, combining with the darkness of the road to focus the viewer firmly on Cheol-min’s plight. The escalating series of complications works too…. I found myself constantly asking what could possibly happen to make things worse at every turn. But it isn’t enough to outweigh that terrible ending.
So… in conclusion, Neko has to give “Truck” only 3 “Meows” out of her possible 5. A less happy ending would have gotten a higher number of “Meows” but still would have fallen short of my top rating. Oh, well…. The discs are well produced as all Korean discs are, with those perfect English subtitles that make them the best produced discs in Asia these days for the discerning english speaking viewer like myself. Unfortunately, they are also pretty pricey at 29-32$ US… my advice is to wait for the inevitable HK disc to come out if you decide you want to see this one for yourself. Don’t get me wrong, it is worth seeing…. how much is up to you.
As always… your Favorite Catgirl leaves you with the Trailer, enjoy!!