A Film a Week - Twenty Hacker

 previously published on Asian Movie Pulse

From a film titled “Twenty Hacker”, one might expect that we are going to get some hacking action in the world of financial, corporate cyber-crime. But with Han Hyun-seok’s debut effort, we are simply not that lucky.

Working from the script written by Ahn Jeon-joo, Han actually opens the film with an action-type of scene. Our protagonist Jae-min (Kwon Hyun-bin) is in a darkened corporate building, working some “magic” with computers there while constantly being on the phone with the rest of the crew. His time is running out, and on his way back, he is interrupted by the security guards. That intro sends the first half (or even more) of the film to the realm of flashback…

We learn that Jae-min is a computer science student whose father was a victim of a hacking fraud, so he strives for revenge. When he is not studying or spending time with his only friend and love interest Jo-hee (Lim Na-young) who is, unfortunately, in love with the university’s alpha-dude and sportsman Chan-ho (Lee Su-woong), Jae-min hacks into the systems of fraudulent companies and alarms the police of their illegal actions anonymously. His actions draw the attention of a group called Better World, of which the two of his former school “frenemies” Man-gook and Hye-so are already members. Could they work as a team in order for Jae-min to execute the revenge on the rival group?

The story and the idea behind it are simple enough, but the whole thing is crippled by both clumsy plotting and equally unapt genre-mixing with romantic comedy. In that the whole cyber-crime and hacking angle gets lost and feels sacrificed for the unfunny, poorly-timed and ultimately slapstick-y jokes. The sense of meandering is even enhanced with tone-deaf directing that, in theory, probably serves as Han’s showcase of solutions that are, unfortunately, largely wrong.

That notion gets quite obvious with the technical components, especially the editing that uses all the tricks and tips applicable to television, such as zooms and horizontal camera rotations as editing tools, montage sequences and abrupt cutting. They all make the already artificially convoluted plot even harder to follow. The overbearing use of soundtrack that shifts in music styles and sometimes even relies on the many-times-heard loops and jingles is also a dead give-away that the creative time has no idea what they are doing.

The same TV-qualities could be applied for acting that is never above the level of K-drama series. In the defence of the actors playing the roles of the main couple, they are pretty much amateurs, coming from the ranks of music with only previous experiences in the drama series. The rest of the cast pretty much goes along the given lines.

All in all, “Twenty Hacker” does not seem like a movie at all, but more as an extended pilot for a run-of-the-mill TV series. The sooner we realize it, this bitter pill gets easier to swallow, but it still does not mean that the show made out of it would be particularly worth watching.

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