February 14, 2016

Handphone: Someone's Number Is Up

While it's neither the most thrilling thriller nor the most action-packed action movie, Kim Han-min's Handphone is solid enough on both counts and takes it all up a notch with side stories intermittently addressing serious societal issues. That means while the shameless talent agent is trying to retrieve his cellphone (which contains a porn video of an actress he's representing), you also witness scenes of workplace sexual harassment, corporate disregard, middle-class debt, road rage, inadequate health care and the sheer inanity of a "customer's always right" mentality. A kind of karmic retribution informs all the proceedings.

The initial villain, a masochistic store manager (Park Yong-woo) who seizes his chance to make the demands of someone else, turns out to be a pitiable son with a mother in the hospital leading to bills he cannot not pay. The initial hero, a smartly dressed pimp (Eom Tae-woong) for actors, has big skeletons in his closet than the X-rated clip of his hottest property decreasing her value hump by hump. Because they're both kind of despicable, your only question is whether either anti-hero will survive. Without spoiling the ending, I will say that the one who triumphs has a bitter pill to swallow with the champagne.

Anyway, the real bad guy here is unquestionably the cellphone. In its tensest moments, Handphone reminds you how much of our lives is controlled by these "convenience" devices. They harrass us, make promises they never keep, interrupt us, and betray us. For the accessibility they provide, they exact a ridiculous price. As such, Handphone might sound like a message movie decrying the damage these phone have wreaked on our lives. But given how much we've integrated them in our day-to-day, if that's the message, I doubt anyone is coming away from Handphone ready to discard his or her own.

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