THE AFFLUENZA EFFECT
Detective Seo Do Chul (Hwang Jung Min) is an enforcer that never follows the rules but he is tough and merciless when it comes to catching criminals. While investigating an international auto theft ring, Do Chul encounters Jo Tae Oh (Yoo Ah In), an arrogant, young millionaire who uses his elite status to do as he pleases.
Do Chul is convinced that Tae Oh is a drug addict but immediately the higher ups stop him from investigating Tae Oh any further. When a truck driver who helped Do Chul on his auto theft case seeks out his overdue wages from Tae Oh’s company, he is beaten and humiliated just for Tae Oh’s amusement. Feeling responsible for what happened to the guy, he decides to take Tae Oh down.
Veteran is a fun, action-packed ride and the cast plays a big part in why the movie is so enjoyable. The first scene in which Hwang Jung Min takes down the thieves is hilarious as he uses the props to take down the bad guys in comical ways. Hwang Jung Min just looks like he having a good time doing it as well. I can see why this was such a big hit last summer.
His cop buddies are over-the-top and silly. Oh Dal Soo is known for his comedic acting but I couldn’t help but crack up over the scene in which he drives his car right up alongside one of the criminals of the auto theft plot, who tries to run away on foot. Coincidentally, during a Q&A session I attended, Director Ryu Seung Wan said this was the most difficult scene to film as Oh Dal Soo is a terrible driver and had difficulty driving the car straight. Actor Bae Sung Woo had to do a lot running that night alongside the car.
I’m also surprised to see how hilarious Model Jang Yun Joo came off on-screen. She comes off fearless as she sheds her polished “model” image to play the coarse, foulmouthed cop. The other members of the team are your typical unkempt detectives who are more used to being on a stakeout rather than fine dining.
As for Yoo Ah In, he is so good at playing the bad boys. From the exaggerated way Jo Tae Oh talks to his swagger, Yoo Ah In truly makes us believe that Jo Tae Oh is entitled to treat everyone else like second class citizens. Jo Tae Oh’s catchphrase was repetitively used in comedy skits as a way to satirize the chaebol class. In some ways, Jo Tae Oh is a one-dimensional caricature but I have to admit that I’m okay with how the film depicts him.
His character is modeled off the real-life chaebols we’ve seen on the news in recent years, such as the “nut rage” incident. Other videos have surfaced since then where rich men and women behave badly in public because they are spoiled and entitled.
When those videos are posted, they only depict one side of the story and the chaebols are never characterized as anything else but terrible individuals. Sure, these people have money and power but this film is the general public’s response to that behavior. And even in the US, when it comes to the Affluenza Teen, it seems that this attitude isn’t unique to Korean culture.
Most viewers are going to identify with Hwang Jung Min’s character as the good guy fighting for justice. However, it’s not clear who is worse when it comes to Jo Tae Oh and his lackey, Choi Sang Moo (Yoo Hae Jin). He’s a spineless character that’s influenced by the power and money and will do anything to protect that.
On the other hand, I was totally rooting for Do Chul’s wife Joo Yeon (Jin Kyung). As a bribe is waved in front of her face, I love how smart her character is in how she responds to the bribe. In fact, I don’t really get a chance to talk much about Jin Kyung the actress because she plays a lot of supporting roles but I’ve often loved the roles she’s takes on.
She often plays strong, smart women from the housewife in Neighborhood Hero who doesn’t take things lying down to playing Kang In Gook’s pro-resistance wife in Assassination. This role is no different as she admits to Do Chul how swayed she was to accept the bribe but in the face of his opposition, she shows no fear in humiliating Jo Tae Oh’s lackeys.
Veteran is a fun, rollicking ride without having the commentary about chaebols being too overbearing on the plot. From the get-go, you know who is the good guy and who is the bad guy and it’s just about sitting back and watching the action-pack comedy unfold. The commentary about affluence is just the thought-provoking icing on the cake.