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Thursday, February 21, 2013

Deranged: New York Korean Film Festival Review

CJ Entertainment
Deranged Review
2012, 109 minutes
Not Rated

Showing on Sunday at the New York Korean Film Festival at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Deranged is a thriller about a deadly parasite that infects a good portion of South Korea and the man, Jae-hyeok (Kim Myung-min), who tries to save his family after they are infected.  The film was written and directed by Jeong-woo Park.  

Deranged offers a mixed bag.  To start, though, the acting is fantastic.  Kim is really good as Jae-hyeok.  He brings humanity to his character which drew me into the film more.  The supporting cast is also quite good, but the stand out is Jung-Hee Moon who plays Jae-hyeok's wife, Gyeong-sun.  She gives a powerful performance as a woman who tries to keep her kids safe from the danger around them.  Her performance, like Kim's is one of the emotional anchors of the film.  Even when the film gets melodramatic, she keeps her performance understated and real which I really connected to.

The story, written by director Park, does some things very well, but for every thing that it does well, it miscalculates another.  Up until the final third of the film, I was invested in the plot.  The final third of the film has some "revelations" that are borderline ridiculous and some serious logic lapses.  The ending also resorts to melodrama, the final scene is simply cheesy, and the parasite and its nasty effects are not given enough of the spotlight (we see movies like this to "see the monster" eventually in gory detail, right?), which is a shame because this movie had some serious potential.  While very similar to the far superior Contagion, Deranged gets something big right that Contagion didn't (and something that I believe held Contagion back from greatness): Deranged adds a serious emotional and human connection to the horror which Contagion never did.  Making Jae-hyeok's wife and kids an integral part of the film really benefitted it.  It made me care about the movie.  In addition, there is a scene in which Jae-hyeok obtains a cure for the parasite, but sees a woman holding an infected crying baby.  Morally conflicted whether he should give the baby a pill to cure it, Jae-hyeok goes with his gut and gives the woman the pill for the baby, risking showing people that he has the unobtainable cure which is supposed to be for his family.  A scene of moral conflict such as this added humanity to the story, something Contagion had a distinct lack of.

One other very positive aspect of the film is its pace.  While I did have problems with Deranged, I was certainly never bored.  Director Park does a great job at keeping the pace up and throwing obstacles left and right at Jae-hyeok to keep the audience entertained.

Overall, I am very conflicted on Deranged.  On one hand, I was very entertained, but on the other, the storytelling had some major issues.  I wouldn't necessarily recommend this film, but I would have a hard time discouraging you from seeing this if you want a fun, mindless night at the movies.

-Joshua Handler

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