TIFF Review: Veteran (베테랑)

Courtesy of TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

With all the buzz about this film, along with the fact that I love action flicks and liked two of director Ryoo Seung Wan’s (류승완) previous films, The Unjust (부당거래) and The Berlin File (베를린), is it any wonder that I was excited to see Veteran (베테랑)? The film, which had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF), is a fun (and funny) action flick with great acting and superb fight scenes. Pure enjoyment for any action film fan.

Synopsis

A dedicated cop, Detective Seo Do-cheol, and his team are investigating a car theft ring when one of the truckers who helped him ends up in a coma in the hospital. Do-cheol’s investigation leads him to conglomerate heir Tae-oh whom he recently met at a party. But of course, investigating the wealthy isn’t that easy.

Courtesy of TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

My Thoughts

One of the first things I thought as the film started was ‘I’m going to love the soundtrack.’ And I did, from the opening song “Heart of Glass” to the final one, they were appropriate and often brought a smile to my face. Gotta love when the soundtrack is used so well.

But you probably want to know more about the action and the film itself. Veteran certainly doesn’t disappoint on that score either as the film starts with a bang, diving right into the action. The scene in the garage is both funny and a treat to watch for any action film fan. I could go on for paragraphs about how much I liked the fight choreography but suffice it to say, it’s fun to see.

Speaking of the garage scene, it’s funny – very, very funny. When he popped out of the truck at the chop shop to pee… it was only about 10 minutes into the film and already I knew I was going to love it. Sure, it’s a commercial film but it’s a fabulous example of pure, fun entertainment – funny dialogue, great acting, extremely well choreographed fight scenes. I dare you to watch it and not enjoy yourself.

Okay, onto the characters.

The villain, Tae-oh, played with intense creepiness by Yoo Ah In (유아인), is such a little psychopath that it’s impossible not to hate him and root for the good guys. Yoo Ah In plays him eerily well, with such disregard for anyone other than himself and such arrogance, he’s like an aristocrat of old… and the worst example of one. Like a spoiled little rich kid that never matured past 5, the tantrums are vicious and cruel. Most of the little notes I made while watching the film were to do with the reprehensible things he did – from breaking a potential bodyguard’s leg to beating his dog, many of the things he did were hard to watch. Of course, the timeliness of such a villain – a spoiled chaebol (conglomerate) kid – is well done after recent incidents in the media (nut rage anyone?).

The contrast between Tae-oh and the cops chasing him were profound. Oh, there was some corruption and obviously some were getting paid off but the main cop characters, were dedicated on the side of justice… the good guys. Perhaps a little single-minded in their pursuit but good guys nonetheless. With Hwang Jung Min (황정민) in the lead role as Do-cheol and Oh Dal Su (오달수) playing his supervisor, it was easy to see who the audience was to get behind. Plus, both actors did a great job at playing their characters. Rounding out the great cast is Yoo Hae Jin (유해진) as Tae-oh’s cousin and keeper/aide who spends a lot of time trying to buy Tae-oh’s way out of trouble, even going so far as to try to bribe Do-cheol’s wife.

But while all the acting was solid, it was truly Hwang Jung Min as Do-cheol that stole the show. The execution of the fight scenes that were choreographed so well, the brash humour and the sheer charisma of his performance caught my attention and wouldn’t let go. The character was so single-minded, he was like a missile homing in on his target.

Back to the humour, and there was a lot of it from Team Leader Oh bringing a gun to a fist fight to handing off a bottle of water and then handcuffs to a criminal to the showing of scars (funny and an interesting way to promote teamwork among the police) to Do-cheol jumping out of the car to pee before fighting the bad guys, there was always something to laugh at. Perhaps it was to keep the film from being too dark or too serious but Ryoo balanced the humour, the fight/action scenes and the more serious moments so well, and got such strong performances from the actors, allowing Veteran to fire on all cylinders. It was just that good.

The final scene was perfect. Tae-oh loses it once he realizes that he may not be able to buy his way out of trouble this time and his attempt to flee the scene goes horribly wrong (how does no one die). Once Do-cheol catches him and quickly realizes how many cameras – CCTV and cellphone – are watching them, he allows Tae-oh to beat the crap out of him long enough to give Tae-oh enough rope to hang himself (metaphorically speaking) so the arrest will stick this time. Perfectly devious and brilliant!

Courtesy of TIFF
Courtesy of TIFF

Final Thoughts

I know the film was good when my first thought after the credits start to roll is… ‘I want to watch it again.’ No joke. Veteran is such a fun, entertaining, laugh-out-loud film with amazingly choreographed fight scenes and great acting that it keep me engaged, laughing and enjoying myself from the first strains of “Heart of Glass” to the final fight scene. Want to be entertained, go see Veteran!

TIFF Screenings

  • Sun, Sep 13 @ 9:00 pm – Scotiabank Theatre
  • Tue, Sep 15 @ 4:00 pm – Scotiabank Theatre
  • Sat, Sep 19 @ 6:15 pm – Scotiabank Theatre

Can’t make it to Toronto to see Veteran at TIFF? It’s opening in select theatres across North America on Friday, September 18th (at Cineplex in Toronto and various other cities).

Cindy Zimmer

Live life to the fullest everyday – this is a the philosophy I try to live by and it’s taken me on many adventures. I write about Korean culture from a non-Korean perspective as the editor/founder of ATK Magazine and I’m the Chair of the Board of Directors of the Toronto Korean Film Festival (TKFF). Previously, I ran a Korean-English language exchange group (in Toronto) for 3 years to stay connected to my three years living in Korea as an English teacher. I love music, film, food and sports and write about 3 of the 4.

2 thoughts on “TIFF Review: Veteran (베테랑)

  • September 20, 2015 at 6:07 pm
    Permalink

    I went to see this on Saturday and it’s actually the last film I saw from the Festival.

    Everyone in the cast played their roles so well, Do-cheol and Tae-oh were fantastic as hero and villain of course! But everyone else was so brilliant! Most amazing to me is trucker Mr Bae. The toilet scene broke my heart in millions of pieces. It’s giving me goosebumps as I write this down.

    I find it hard to believe that the movie was only 2 hours long. I was thoroughly entertained and like you Cindy, I wanted to see it over and over. Maybe I’ll drag one of my friends to watch it again in Cineplex! Director Ryoo is amazing and this film is truly spectacular.

    Adding it to my movie list in TIFF is probably the best decision I made – some of my selections were a bit dark and depressing! And although Veteran was also vicious and was in-your-face with some of the violence, it was balanced with lighthearted humor among family and colleagues. 🙂 I didn’t mind at all that I paid $25 for this screening. I’m definitely going to see it again one of these days!

    Take care!

    Reply
    • September 21, 2015 at 10:37 am
      Permalink

      Hey Noreen, good to know I wasn’t the only one who enjoyed the film 🙂 And like you, I’ll probably watch it again with friends as it’s now at Cineplex. I hope you enjoyed all your TIFF films!

      Reply

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