Commitment (South Korea, 2013) [Terracotta 2014]

In 2009, after his father, a North Korean spy, is thwarted from returning from his mission in the South, eighteen year old LI Myung-hoon (Choi Seung-hyun) and his younger sister Hye-in (Han Ye-ri) are put in the Yoduk Labor Prison Camp. Colonel Moon Sang-chul (Jo Sung-ha) of North Korea’s Unit 8, informs Myung-hoon that his becoming an agent is the only way for him and his sister to get out of the camp alive. Myung-hoon agrees and two years later he ‘defects’ to the South where he is adopted by a childless Korean couple in Seoul. They, not surprisingly, are themselves North Korean agents.

Adopting the Seoul-style name Kang Dae-ho, he enters high school. There, he is assigned a seat next to a quiet girl who, like his sister, is named Hye-in (Kim Yoo-jeong). A would-be dancer, Hye-in is bullied by both boys and girls alike. Drawn to her both because she shares his sister’s name and because, like him, Hye-in is an outsider, the undercover agent comes to her rescue when her male assailants go too far.

Meanwhile, he tools around town on a super-hot Ducati motorcycle tracking down the North Korean agent from Section 35 who is killing members of Unit 8’s sleeper cells. It seems that there is an internecine rivalry and power struggle going on between these two agencies. As things heat up, Dae-ho finds himself the target of the NIS (South Korea’s intelligence agency) and of Northerners who are sent to eliminate him. Furthermore, Hye-in, his schoolmate and would-be dancer, and his sister Hye-in, who is brought to the South as a bargaining chip, are both put in harms way. Protecting them will put Dae-ho’s skills and commitment to the test.

Choi Seung-hyun, a.k.a. T.O.P., has a number of films and TV series to his credit and is one of the rappers in the K-pop boy band Big Bang. Here he acquits himself quit admirably in both the dramatic and action sequences, particularly the ones involving hand-to-hand combat. Commitment is a bit overwrought and somewhat overly melodramatic at times, but not to the point that the overall experience is spoiled. It’s a good action-thriller that comes solidly recommended.

For a somewhat similarly themed film, check out Secretly Greatly (also 2013). It’s about three young North Korean spies who infiltrate the South, and has a lot of comedic elements, whereas Commitment is pretty much a straightforward drama.

Commitment plays at the Terracotta Far East Film Festival on Saturday May 31. Click here for screening times and tickets.