Although Fantasia Fest may be in its final stretch there are still a bunch of great titles screening, three of which are Next Sohee (winner of Best Director July Jung), Country Gold, and The Killer.
Take a look below for my thoughts on each film and click here to check out all of our Fantasia coverage.
July Jung’s Next Sohee is a tragic and sobering look at toxicity in the workplace and the byzantine layers of accountability (or lack thereof) that plague our modern institutions.
This blistering drama stars Kim Si-Eun as Sohee, a bright high school student who gets an externship at a call center only to find herself in a brutal environment with unrealistic dissuasion goals and overbearing management. This is on top of the constant barrage of abusive callers that anyone in the customer service field is likely all too familiar with.
After a series of tragic events Jung switches perspectives and the narrative shifts to Bae Doona as whip-smart detective Yoo-jin who aims to get to the bottom of what’s happening with this company.
Bolstered by magnetic performances, Jung’s gripping story is as powerful as it is frustrating, exemplifying a harsh reality that far too many of us have to endure. Next Sohee doesn’t provide any easy answers. Instead it distills the complexity of a broken system into a heartbreaking and expertly crafted film.
Prolific indie filmmaker Mickey Reece continues his assault on cinema with a surreal comedy that imagines a Garth Brooks type country star who gets invited to meet one of his biggest inspirations for a wild night in Nashville.
Taking place in 1994, Reece himself plays Troyal Brooks, a wholesome modern country singer on the verge of superstardom who gets a call from the legendary George Jones inviting him to spend the evening with him- an invite he simply can’t pass up.
As it turns out, Jones is heading off the next morning to be cryogenically frozen and wants to catch a glimpse of what the future holds for country music before he takes his long slumber- a plot point that, odd as it is, proves to be one of the more grounded elements of the film.
Imagine Danny McBride playing Garth Brooks and that’s how Reece portrays Troyal. It’s a hilarious character made even more entertaining by Reece’s dialogue in one of those performances where nearly everything that comes out of his mouth is funny.
Like most of Reece’s films, there’s nothing conventional about Country Gold, but that adds an interesting layer of surprise to what seems like a fairly straight forward narrative at the onset. What begins as a metaphorical passing of the torch morphs into a strange journey about meeting your heroes, a longing for the past, and a surreal treatise on country music.
Shot predominantly in glorious black and white and chock full of random detours, flashbacks, and even an animated sequence, Country Gold once again proves that Mickey Reece is an auteur with a seemingly never ending supply of unique stories to tell.
Although its title may be a bit generic and its plot slightly derivative, Choi Jae-hun’s The Killer is a well-choreographed and exciting South Korean actioner from start to finish.
Based on the novel by Bang Jin-ho, the film stars Jang Hyuk as a former hit-man who is forced to babysit the daughter of his wife’s friend while they go on a trip, but unfortunately for him she gets abducted by a sex trafficker and must spill a fair amount of blood to get her back.
Reminiscent of Taken and the John Wick series, The Killer features a near constant barrage of bad-ass set pieces, loaded with brutal violence and gut punching action. The cinematography is top-notch, fluidly and stylishly capturing every angle and making sure every punch, stab, and bullet wound is in frame.
Sure, there’s not a lot here in the way of innovation, but everything on display is done expertly and with precision. The script, while presenting a basic narrative is brimming with action and humor, allowing for the moments of calm before the next barrage of violence to remain entertaining and engaging.