“If it wasn’t something new, I had no reason to come back,” proclaims Director Park Kwang-hyung on his latest film, Fabricated City. And admittedly, the classic story of a scapegoat turning tables on his offenders is getting a little predictable. After a decade-long break, Park injects enough ingenuity into his latest work to keep the genre fresh, if a little unbelievable at times.
Ji Chang-wook is his aimless victim and hero, playing a disgraced ex-national Taekwondo sportsman-turned-gamer Kwon Yoo. The boy whiles his hours playing shoot-out games, leading his team “Resurrection” from victory to victory.
Known as Captain online, he is suave and ambitious, sometimes even self-sacrificial, especially for a bumbling teammate by the alias of “Mr Hairy”. He forms a bond with his team but never meets them, aware that he is far from the charismatic leader they might think he is.
After one of the sessions, he unknowingly walks into a trap when he receives a call on a stranger’s mobile at his gaming station. A reward of $300 is offered for the return of the phone, and he gladly obliges without ever really seeing the owner in person when he drops it at the apartment. However, he wakes up the next morning to find himself swiftly arrested for the murder and rape of that same stranger.
Kwon Yoo is made out to look like a beast by the media, and is sent to jail in record time, eventually getting abused and raped himself, completely obliterating what little dignity he had left. His mother struggles to get an appeal on his sentence, hinting at a witness as a solid alibi. This comes to nothing, when public lawyer Min (Oh Jung-se) delivers shocking news that his mother has passed away from grief.
The brittle Kwon Yoo would have lost all hope, if not for an enigmatic jail-mate who stirs up his will again, to fight for his innocence in light of his mum’s effort. He uses his wits and does a Prison Break, and gets contacted by his gaming team on the outside to solve the mystery behind his predicament.
Ji plays a superb lead, like a younger Gong Yoo with a balance of looks and acting cred to pull the story along. In many scenes, such as the one where he tears up while eating rice after his jailbreak, is heartfelt, and pulls the audience right along before receiving the anticipated revenge payout at the end.
But it’s his team mates that steal the show, by injecting both humour and realism into scenarios that take more than a little believing at times.
For instance, “Mr Hairy” (Shim Eun-kyung) turns out to be a diminutive and socially-awkward girl, who leads the resistance as a hacker prodigy. “Demolition” (Ahn Jae-hong) is a special effects artist, always ready to lend a hand. The two Kims (Min-kyo and Ki-cheon) are a riot. As a expert technician and retired professor, these two provide the best chemistry and moments in the show, helping their leader to uncover and unravel the odious perpetrators’ plans.
As said earlier, there are some moments that takes one right out of the realism. There’s plenty of scenes that takes place in the villain’s vault computer system – one that Professor Xavier would have been proud to have. There’s another where Kim Min-kyo builds a drone from scratch, not unbelievable – until it starts to scan buildings for hideouts and delivers homing explosives. A hired henchman Ma (Kim Sang-ho) is reputedly a gang boss in jail, but can’t even fire a gun to kill a man 5 metres away.
Lucky for Park, the spiffy effects and some original action sequences blast away all these shortcoming, and give Fabricated City a polish that still shines.
Classic plot gets some refreshing twists and treatment, and coupled with the quality production and choice ensemble, makes this movie a satisfying-enough thriller.
First published: MovieXclusive.com