A ‘Derailed’ Review No One Asked For

Thanks to SHINee’s recent comeback, I found myself recalling a movie starring Minho that I watched several years ago. And rather than write about a currently-airing drama like a sensible person, I’ve decided to metaphorically pen this wholesomely unasked-for review of Derailed (2016).

Let’s start with some things I love about the film:

The story is unique and intriguing from start to finish.

The movie’s concept is refreshingly unique; I can’t say I’ve seen any other film with this exact story structure. Minho stars as Jin Il, a young runaway who lives on the streets with Ga Young (Jung Da Eun) and two other close friends. One day, the kids decide to pull a love motel scheme: Ga Young will agree to meet with a man in a motel, but the rest of the gang will burst in and rob him before anything can happen. Their plan is foiled, however, when their first victim, Hyung Seok (Ma Dong Seok), ends up holding Ga Young hostage…and believe it or not, that’s really only the beginning of our story.

left to right: Baek Soo Min, Jung Da Eun, Choi Min Ho (Minho), and Lee You Jin

Each individual’s performance is outstanding.

Every single actor/actress in this film blew me away with their performance. Realistic, believable characters saturate a storyline that calls for powerful acting. Minho completely sheds his clean-cut idol image for the grime and bruises of his character. But anyone can have their outward appearance altered. And that’s where Minho really knocks it out of the park. The way he physically and emotionally embodies someone thrust into such desperate, frightening, and dark situations is simultaneously heartbreaking and incredible to watch. He doesn’t hold back — and deserves a lot of props for this role.

Jung Da Eun plays Ga Young, and — like Minho — completely sheds her idol image for this role. The fatigue, hunger, and terror Ga Young feels throughout the film is palpable. Jung Da Eun fully embraces the essence of Ga Young, reacting how I imagine any young girl might react under the harsh circumstances the character has been through (and continues to go through). Da Eun’s talent as an actress absolutely shines in this film. It’s a gut-wrenching performance, yet understated (which makes it all the more believable). The fact that this was her first movie role completely blows my mind.

And of course the legendary Ma Dong Seok is one of the film’s especially bright highlights. Rather than a one-dimensional plot device, the character of Hyung Suk is written with surprisingly relatable depth. He’s caught between a rock and a hard place, and the viewer gets to see why he makes the decisions he does (be they good or bad…usually bad). He’s an antagonist with development, which Ma Dong Seok executes flawlessly.

I’ll leave it at these three for now, but everyone does an outstanding job. Check out the rest of the cast to find some more familiar (and perhaps not-so-familiar) talented faces. For example, this film contains one of actor Kim Jae Young‘s earliest roles…and, ladies and gentlemen, it’s a doozy (as in, really intense).

The police are useful and actually listen to the kids.

The Useless Police is one of my biggest film trope pet peeves. It’s refreshing to see on-screen policemen who actually use their brains and do their job. Imagine that. No, the police do not magically show up at the end of the day to save everyone (unfortunately), but they’re also not bumbling idiots. Nor are they stubborn jerks who blindly disregard anything non-adults have to say. The police garner trust with our main protagonists because they treat the youth like human beings and listen to what they have to say. It’s a solid writing choice for the story’s progression to have at least someone the kids can rely on when they need an ally.

The movie is gritty without trying too hard to be.

The header essentially says it all. I appreciate that Derailed portrays dark and dangerous (but — tragically — very realistic) aspects of society in an honest way, without coming across as angsty or preachy.

Now for a couple things I don’t love about the film:

The violence can be a bit much.

While I don’t like gore, violence in films usually doesn’t bug me too much. But Derailed can be downright difficult to watch at times. If Hyung Suk isn’t beating up Jin Il, then he’s beating up the other antagonist — who, in turn, is either beating up someone else, or getting his goons to. Yes, it adds to the gritty realism the entire film vibes with, so I understand why the violence is there — but I believe the amount of slapping, punching, and general beating is often needlessly excessive and could have been toned down significantly without compromising the integrity of the film. A personal preference, certainly, but one I thought warranted mentioning.

Spoilers for the end of the movie ahead!

The end.

I thought killing off Jin Il was needless. These poor kids have been through such atrocities and Jin Il has already sacrificed so much for Ga Young (and vice versa, for that matter). We fully understand that he loves her and would do anything for her; that point did not need to be driven home any more. But alas, no one consulted me when writing the end of the film.

End of spoilers!

What’s your favorite Minho role? What about Jung Da Eun? I think she’s stellar in Mr. Temporary, which also happens to be one of my favorite dramas of all time. Join in the conversation by leaving a comment below.

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As always, thank you for reading! Until next time.

5 Asian Movies I’m Always In The Mood To Watch

I seem to be in the mood for listicles lately — since I just finished off a post surrounding my top five K-dramas, I felt it would be fitting to head over here to talk about some of my favorite Asian movies (only some, mind you; I have to cap it off somewhere).

The theme for this post is simple: great films that I’m basically always in the mood to watch. The genres range, so hopefully there’s something here for everyone. And who knows? You may just find an unfamiliar gem or two you’d like to check out.

Let’s get to it.

*Parents/guardians of younger readers are strongly cautioned to research and okay the films before any viewing takes place.

Hot Young Bloods

One of the most iconic coming-of-age films out there, South Korean 80’s-era Hot Young Bloods tells the story of Joong Gil (Lee Jong Suk), the guy all the girls like. He’s dorky, clueless, and a total player. His childhood friend Young Sook (Park Bo Young) is the leader of a tough girl gang who harbors a one-sided crush on him. She, however, is the object of affection of boy gang leader Gwang Sik (Kim Young Kwang). Throw angel-faced new girl So Hee (Lee Se Young) into the mix, and you’re in for one serious mess of adolescent hormones — and one of the sweetest (and most hilarious) love stories ever.

This one can be pretty violent, especially in terms of bullying and gang violence. It’s not gory per se, but the film is about a bunch of angry, hot-tempered teenagers with little to no adult supervision…you do the math.

Animal World

If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to gamble for your life in a lethal game of Rock-Paper-Scissors, you’re in luck because that’s the bare bones of Mainland China’s manga-to-film adaptation of Animal World. It tells the story of Zheng Kai Si (Li Yifeng), a debt-ridden young man who barely makes enough money to keep his comatose mother in the hospital, let alone marry his girlfriend (played by Zhou Dong Yu). After losing his last hope for survival, Kai Si’s only choice is to gamble his life for money in the highest-stakes game of Rock-Paper-Scissors anyone’s ever seen…and he must rely on his killer math skills to survive.

The cinematography of Animal World is mind-blowing, with stunning, high-quality graphics to boot. It’s well-filmed, well-acted, and the story is so engaging that the 2+ hours go by quickly (and with a lot of nail-biting because this baby’s intense). This was one of those films I randomly started — with zero knowledge about it — and was hooked immediately. And I do mean immediately…that opening sequence, though. Oh, and the fact that we get to see Li Yifeng and Zhou Dong Yu as a couple is a total bonus.

(If you don’t know a thing about gambling and your math skills aren’t your proudest attribute, don’t worry! I fit both of these categories and was still able to keep up with the film and enjoy it thoroughly…that’s why it’s on this list.)

My Little Monster

Getting back into light-hearted territory is Japan’s film adaptation of both the manga and anime of the same name, My Little Monster. It tells the story of two lonely teenagers: studious Shizuku (Tao Tsuchiya) — who thinks only of her academics — and eccentric Haru, (Masaki Suda), whose bizarre and uncouth ways give Shizuku little choice but to venture out of her comfort zone as the two form a fast (albeit odd) friendship.

My Little Monster is refreshingly honest and unapologetically offbeat. It refuses to remain tucked into any solitary category, focusing on friendship and family just as keenly as it does romance. It contains both heavy and whimsical material that will leave you deep in thought one moment, and chuckling (or shamelessly laughing out loud) the next. Characters are larger than life, yet beautifully relatable — a tribute to the film’s excellent way of transitioning manga characters to real life ones while still maintaining the general vibes of anime that we all know and love.

Psst! If you’re a fan of Masaki Suda, you must check this one out. The character of Haru allows Suda (who is often cast in darker, heavier roles) to showcase his brilliant comedic timing while also highlighting his physical versatility as an actor. (Haru’s crouchy, twitchy movements are often animal-like.)

Shoot Me In The Heart

Speaking of offbeat films, South Korea’s Shoot Me In The Heart tells an unconventional tale of two unlikely protagonists — Soo Myung (Yeo Jin Goo) and Seung Min (Lee Min Ki), two psychiatric patients whose friendship fuels hope for each other and their fellow patients in an otherwise bleak, oppressive environment.

The plot is simple and about as slice-of-life as it gets. Aside from the abusive male nurse Jeombak-yi (Park Doo Sik), there’s really no physical villain of the film; the antagonist manifests itself in the form of stigmatization and the patients’ own feelings of self-worthlessness. But it’s not all doom-and-gloom; clever humor and powerful moments of truth pervade the overwhelming hopelessness, creating an overall uplifting, upbeat film.

I’d like to point out that I believe the trailer and promotional posters make it look far more light-hearted and comedic than it is. I don’t think it was anyone’s intention to deceive viewers, but I just want to highlight that the film itself is really a lot more thought-provoking, artistic, and deep than the trailer (at least, any trailer I could find) makes it look.

A Werewolf Boy

An unconventional love story spans across species and time in South Korea’s A Werewolf Boy. When a young girl’s family moves to the countryside, she finds an unusual friend in the feral boy living in their barn.

Before we get into the characters, I have to point out one of my favorite aspects of this film: the aesthetics. It’s. So. Beautiful. If you didn’t already want to move to the Korean countryside, you just might after watching this.

Park Bo Young plays protagonist Soon Yi, who befriends the wild feral boy (Song Joong Ki) her family finds living outside their home. Neither are trusting of other people, yet the two develop a deep bond. He is fiercely loyal to her and her family (especially when it comes to their sleazy landlord, played by Yoo Yeon Seok) and she teaches him manners and how to behave more human-like. (This was the first thing I ever saw Song Joong Ki in and I was blown away watching an actor who has essentially zero lines deliver such a compelling performance.)

A Werewolf Boy is the epitome of what I believe is an oft-overused description when it comes to film: a timeless classic. If you want to see what this expression truly means, give this movie a shot.

Thanks for reading!

What are some of your favorite Asian movies?

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