Review: ‘The Childe,’ starring Kim Seon-ho, Kang Tae-ju, Kim Kang-woo and Go Ara

July 3, 2023

by Carla Hay

Kang Tae-ju (facing camera) and Kim Seon-ho in “The Childe” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Childe”

Directed by Park Hoon-jung

Korean with subtitles

Culture Representation: Taking place in the Philippines and South Korea, the action film “The Childe” features a predominantly Asian cast of characters (with some white people) representing the working-class, middle-class and wealthy.

Culture Clash: A 24-year-old underground fighter in the Philippines travels to South Korea to get money from his estranged father to help pay for the medical bills of the fighter’s ailing mother, but the fighter gets more than he bargained for when he finds out that people are trying to kill him.

Culture Audience: “The Childe” will appeal primarily to people who are interested in watching neo-noir action films.

Kim Kang-woo (center) in “The Childe” (Photo courtesy of Well Go USA)

“The Childe” is an intriguing action film with plot twists that will keep viewers riveted. The principal cast members give solid performances. There are also frank depictions of the prejudices experienced by half-Korean, half-Filipino people in South Korea. These bi-ethnic people are called Kopinos, which is sometimes used as a derogatory term, depending who’s saying it and the context.

Written and directed by Park Hoon-jung, “The Childe” is an often-violent story about greed, ambition, and family relationships. The movie’s protagonist is 24-year-old Marco Han (played by Kang Tae-ju), who lives in the Philippines and makes illegal money as an underground boxer. Marco is desperate for cash because he’s the only one who can pay the medical bills of his ailing mother (played by Caroline Magbojos), who raised Marco as a single parent. Her medical situation is urgent because she needs a life-changing operation.

Marco’s biological father, who was never in Marco’s life, is a wealthy South Korean businessman who has some medical issues of his own. Because of heart problems, he is comatose and currently on a ventilator in a hospital in South Korea. Marco’s father has not kept in touch with Marco’s mother. It’s mentioned that Marco’s father kept his distance because he was ashamed of having an illegitimate child who’s half-Filipino.

Marco’s father, who is currently a widower, has two other children, who were both raised in this wealthy family: Adult son Director Han (played by Kang-woo Kim), who is in his 40s, is the heir apparent to the family fortune, which includes the Hokyung Foundation. His sister Han Ga-young (played by Jeong Ra-el) is in her late teens. Director Han knows about Marco. In a scene where Director Han is talking to their comatose father in the hospital, Director Han calls Marco a “mutt” because of Marco’s half-Filipino/half-South Korean heritage.

Back in the Philippines, Marco is enticed by a shady criminal to rob a warehouse. When Marco arrives at the warehouse, he finds out too late that it’s all a setup for an ambush. He’s physically attacked by about 10 thugs and runs away into a street, where he is almost hit by a car driven by a mysterious woman who’s about the same age as Marco. Viewers later find out that her name is Yoon-ju (played by Go Ara), who knows more than she initially tells Marco.

When Yoon-ju and Marco first meet, she’s very apologetic for almost hitting him with her car. When she sees his injuries, she insists on taking him to a hospital. The thugs that were chasing Marco back off and leave when they see that Marco is being helped by a potential witness. Yoon-ju makes the mistake of asking Marco if he’s a Kopino. It’s a question that offends Marco, and Yoon-ju makes an apology for it.

After Marco leaves the hospital, another mysterious stranger comes into his life. He’s only identiified in the movie as Nobleman (played by Kim Seon-ho), and he is a frequently smirking assassin. Nobleman tells Marco that he was sent by Marco’s father to bring Marco to South Korea. At first Marco is suspicious, because he’s been estranged from his father for Marco’s entire life, so Marco wonders why he is being summoned by his father at this point in time. But then, Marco decides he can use this visit to South Korea to ask his father for money to pay for the operation that Marco’s mother needs.

The next thing that Marco knows, he’s being whisked on a private plane to South Korea. But what about those thugs that attacked him? Why did that happen? Marco soon finds out that he’s also under attack in Korea. There are several scenes in the movie where he is chased by men who obviously want to kill him. It should come as no surprise who’s behind these attacks, but the motivation for these attempted murders is meant to be a surprise, which is revealed in the last third of the movie.

Nobleman and Marco develop an unusual like/dislike rapport, where the lines are blurred on whose side Nobleman is really on. The offbeat and sometimes sarcastic banter that Nobleman and Marco have with each other is the darkly comedic part of the movie. Kim and Kang have great performance chemistry with each other. Between the action scenes, Marco is trying to find out exactly who Nobleman is, just like how viewers might be wondering the same thing.

A few of the action sequences are unrealistic in how certain people should end up with broken or fractured bones but don’t. However, the stunts mostly look believable and don’t over-rely on visual effects. The mystery behind Marco’s invitation to South Korea eventually reveals a truth that is not as obvious as it first appears to be. “The Childe” isn’t a perfect action movie, but it offers enough thrills and suspense to satisfy any fan of the genre.

Well Go USA released “The Childe” in select U.S. cinemas on June 30, 2023. The movie was released in South Korea on June 21, 2023.

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